The head of a voluntary tennis organisation has called on the sport’s governing body to capitalise on the recent successes of Andy Murray.
Steve Milne, founder of Tennis Connect Wales, believes now is the perfect time for the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to inspire schoolchildren to pick up a racquet and take an interest in the sport.
Tennis Connect Wales is a not-for-profit voluntary organisation that’s been set up to help give young people the chance to take up tennis, regardless of their economic background.
On Sunday November 20, Andy Murray enforced his position as the number one tennis player in the world with victory over previous incumbent Novak Djokovic at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.
Murray achieved the top ranking after a stellar second half to the year, winning the Wimbledon title, a gold medal at the Rio Olympics, and a number of smaller events to overtake his Serbian rival in a feat many predicted near impossible. Murray’s brother, Jamie, also sits top of the doubles rankings.
Mr Milne said: “It’s a great achievement for Andy and his brother to reach number one in the world. We’re arguably now in the strongest possible position for getting youngsters interested in the sport.
“Their success needs to be backed up with money and commitment by the LTA and Tennis Wales, who need to put their money where their mouth is and stop paying lip service.
“The LTA generates £30 million from Wimbledon alone, while its regional networks, including Tennis Wales, are handed just £500k a year.
“They talk a good game about growing the game in schools, but we haven’t seen an increase to suggest anything is working or being done about it.”
The Crosskeys coach added: “There’s hunger in deprived areas to play tennis, but people just aren’t receiving the support. There are many issues in grassroots tennis, but fundamentally, we need to get kids hooked.
“Caerphilly County Borough is a massive area, but there’s only one tennis club, and that’s in Caerphilly.
“The coach there, Jonathan Morgan understands that the next generation of kids at his club are going to come from local schools, so he’s going in, using his foresight, and getting children involved. Leisure centres don’t see tennis as profitable, so they’re turning courts into 3G indoor football pitches.
“It’s all about supply and demand. If the demand is there, there’s more of a case to pump some money into local facilities, which remain in disrepair. Some have no lines, no nets, and the courts are covered in moss, so it’s all linked.”