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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
DON'T BLAME THE PLAYERS

By Jo Ward

A highly edited version of this article was printed in this month’s Ace magazine (Sep). I feel that the editing process not only left an article that didn’t make much sense, but also changed my point. Jo Ward

This year was the first time in the Open Era that no British woman made it through to the second round of Wimbledon. Despite the fact that there were only five Brits in the ladies’ draw (two of whom came close to winning in close three set matches), the state of British tennis was laid bare for all to see; we’re in dire straits and have been for years. I had hoped that the silver lining would be the Lawn Tennis Association finally being held accountable, yet the cloud of criticism fell mostly on the shoulders of the players.

Theories abound from all quarters about the reasons for such a decline since the glory days of Virginia Wade’s SW19 triumph in 1977. Wade and former LTA employee and Wimbledon finalist, Olga Morozova were just two of the many who cited a lack of Eastern-bloc hunger and commitment as the failing of our girls.

I think this ‘starve or win’ mentality has gone too far. So we’re not all on the poverty line and needing to win tennis matches to eat and feed our families. Is that such a bad thing? Can freedom, liberty, and all that being born British affords us ever be bad? Are we being told that living in the land of hope and glory is not conducive to sporting success? Try debating that with David Beckham, or any other of the plethora of sporting successes we boast as a nation.

Anyway, maybe it’s time to shatter the myth of Russia’s best talent, unwashed, penniless and starved, traveling round tournaments in a caravan. That old cliché has been used so much people are actually starting to believe it. Though the prize-money structure of the Tour certainly needs addressing, and there are many poor players scraping an existence from week to week on a pittance of winnings (including most of our British girls), you’d have more chance of finding the next wave of Eastern European elite in crop tops in Florida than in hand-me-downs hitting against the walls in their decaying home towns. The fact is that most of these players are spotted young, put on the books of a sports management agency, and given anything and everything needed to become a champion. It is however true that many of these girls are driven, sometimes to exhaustion by tyrannical parents, and maybe also true that without them they would not have achieved the same level or lifestyle. I have heard many an ‘ova’ express thanks to a parent for pushing them in ways that would have our social services looking for foster homes for them. The problem though, is that for each success story I dread to think how many girls have been left on the tennis scrap heap, and lost their childhoods for nothing. The Eastern European philosophy of producing athletes has been likened to throwing eggs at a brick wall: eventually, one won’t break and you’ll have a champion. The thing is that while we long for a British champion, we have to remember that we are developing young adults as we teach them tennis, and broken shells on the floor are culturally unacceptable, thank God.

Other Western countries, a good example being Belgium, are producing players and I doubt that Clijsters or Henin ever had to go hungry after losing a tennis match. The real fact is that the LTA has failed in every initiative it has introduced since before I was born, and now the players, who are just the products of that bad system, are being blamed. There is no doubt that British women are way off the mark in world terms, but if the reason for that is lack of hunger and a poor work ethic then I ask you, who did they learn that from? Along with the Russian myth, many would also have you believe that British children have an inherent talent for all sports except tennis. I believe the solution lies more with Albert Einstein than in our genetic coding when he defined stupidity as continually performing the same task in the same way, and expecting different results.

ENDS

The last part in bold was chanegd from "the LTA has failed in" to "tennis in this country has failed in"

No wonder we can't get a move on when our own girls who havea clue can't even speak their mind (and the truth) without it being edited so the LTA can save face.
 

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Thanks for posting this article, paul_masterton. I think the LTA are so out of their minds crazy for a male Wimbledon champion that they have totally neglected their womens' program to their own detriment.
 

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Well its gonna hit the LTA hard in the face when Tim and Greg retire!After them mens tennis is in a far worse state!

When they do retire i'd think Anne Keothavong and Elena Baltacha will be around top 100.Jane O'Donaghue top 200 maybe higher.

Where will the men be doubtfull top 200!
 

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Well its gonna hit the LTA hard in the face when Tim and Greg retire!After them mens tennis is in a far worse state!

When they do retire i'd think Anne Keothavong and Elena Baltacha will be around top 100.Jane O'Donaghue top 200 maybe higher.

Where will the men be doubtfull top 200!
 

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paul_masterton said:
No wonder we can't get a move on when our own girls who havea clue can't even speak their mind (and the truth) without it being edited so the LTA can save face.
...that's exactly what I was thinking...

...what it comes down to is...if you want a Martina Hingis...you need a Melanie Molitor...and we don't seem to have any of those... :(

:)
 

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What about Amanda Janes? She had some big qualifying wins this year before losing to Amy Frazier in a first round match at Eastbourne.

The buzz is always around Keothavang, Baltacha and O'Donaghue, but Amanda seems to have the stuff that could actually propel her into the top 100.

Do any of you British posters agree with this?
 

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Jakeev said:
What about Amanda Janes? She had some big qualifying wins this year before losing to Amy Frazier in a first round match at Eastbourne.

The buzz is always around Keothavang, Baltacha and O'Donaghue, but Amanda seems to have the stuff that could actually propel her into the top 100.

Do any of you British posters agree with this?
Yes, It's great to see Amanda coming back from uni in good form and she'll probably pass her highest ranking, (297ish), soon.
The reason we're a bit more excited about Anne, Elena and Jane is that they all turn twenty this year (Anne next Tuesday), quite young for Brits to be finding success. Amanda is only 25 (I think) so she has time yet to achieve a lot but the other three represent our hope for the future.
 

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I read this on the GBTG site. Awful, but not surprising, to see that her article was "edited" in this way. It would be interesting to hear the thoughts of some of the current players but I suppose they have to be careful what they say as they still rely on the LTA for finance etc.
 

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Colin B said:
Yes, It's great to see Amanda coming back from uni in good form and she'll probably pass her highest ranking, (297ish), soon.
The reason we're a bit more excited about Anne, Elena and Jane is that they all turn twenty this year (Anne next Tuesday), quite young for Brits to be finding success. Amanda is only 25 (I think) so she has time yet to achieve a lot but the other three represent our hope for the future.

Well 25 is not exactly an age when tennis players all of a sudden come into their own. Then again, if players like Tzipora Obzilar and Eva Bes, women many never had heard of, found moderate success when they were older in their careers, I don't see why Amanda could not either.
 

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I disagree, maybe I am wrong as Jo Ward obviously in inside the workings of the LTA more and maybe knows more about it, but I don't think the British players are hungry enough. They know come Eastbourne, Birmmingham, Wimbeldon time there is a wild card waiting for them. I know they had a play off for wild cards this year, but still too many were given to people like Julie Pullin which is a waste. I know Julie is the 3rd or 4th Brit but it would have been better to give it to a real youngster rather than someone who has not progressed in the last 6-7 years. The girls in the Eastern European countries are hungrier and not afraid to go to places like Asia and Africa to play smaller events week in and week out to get ranking points, unlike the Brits who mainly play events in the UK. If these girls were really hungry and really wanted to succeed, then they have to give up their home comforts and rough it for a while in poor conditions if they want to get up the rankings.
 

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To use Dokic's famous quote Anne, Elena and Jane have never been players and never will be players. It's one thing to say "oh, they're still only 20", but face it: if you want to be a good/successful player (top-30) then you've got to be doing good things in your late teens and early twenties, not playing Challengers still and wasting Wild Cards at Slams.

For 'tennis' success, you've got to take the kids out of school, forget about education for a while, and just hit balls endlessly. They can go back to college later, so long as they've learnt to read, write and count.

World tennis is a learning experience of it's own.

The British girls who play tend to stay in education too long. It's a class thing as much as anything. The parents send them to posh schools, and cannot bear the social criticism they'd get for choosing 'tennis ball hitting' over clarinet lessons and Shakespeare.
 
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baleineau said:
To use Dokic's famous quote Anne, Elena and Jane have never been players and never will be players. It's one thing to say "oh, they're still only 20", but face it: if you want to be a good/successful player (top-30) then you've got to be doing good things in your late teens and early twenties, not playing Challengers still and wasting Wild Cards at Slams.

For 'tennis' success, you've got to take the kids out of school, forget about education for a while, and just hit balls endlessly. They can go back to college later, so long as they've learnt to read, write and count.

World tennis is a learning experience of it's own.

The British girls who play tend to stay in education too long. It's a class thing as much as anything. The parents send them to posh schools, and cannot bear the social criticism they'd get for choosing 'tennis ball hitting' over clarinet lessons and Shakespeare.
Althought I did like raquel's post above this post, I have got to say that as blunt and kind of mean as this post is, I cannot disagree with him either.

The tennis world continues to pass England by. In fact, can anyone remember who the last British lass who made it at least to a final of a significant WTA tournament? Annabel Croft? Sara Gomer? Sarah Loosemore? Sam Smith?

I guess the reality is, as much as I read how much potential the current British crop has, it's seems to all be just words. I guess one girl has to shut us all up and start producing the results.
 

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baleineau said:
For 'tennis' success, you've got to take the kids out of school, forget about education for a while, and just hit balls endlessly. They can go back to college later, so long as they've learnt to read, write and count.

World tennis is a learning experience of it's own.

The British girls who play tend to stay in education too long. It's a class thing as much as anything. The parents send them to posh schools, and cannot bear the social criticism they'd get for choosing 'tennis ball hitting' over clarinet lessons and Shakespeare.
I've been saying that for years! But as Jo says in her article, in England, if you tried to 'hot house' a (child) tennis player like they do in some countries, Social Services would be knocking on the door!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Many Brits do travel abroad, we've had girls playing in India, Nigeria, Algeria, Mexico, Greece, Qatar, Japan, China, Australia, USA, Canada, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Poland, Leichtenstein and several other places.

And as Jo pointed out, if parents in this country did what soem Eastern Europeans do, not only would social services be around, teh parents would most likely end up in jail.
 

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I wonder what will happen here in Spain as well, since our boys do great, our girls are stuck and don't progress anymore..... :confused:
 
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