Posted by: Paul | June 22, 2010

Wimbledon Women

I’m a bit of an obsessive about tennis in general, and Wimbledon in particular. Every year I buy the newspaper which has the best 2-page draw chart and diligently fill in the results each day as they come in. And I was very pleased yesterday for the first name I wrote in the ladies second round draw to be none other than Britain’s Elena Baltacha…

The above is the start of a post I wrote yesterday in order to save myself some time today. What happened next, was that like Anne Keothavong today, Baltacha threw away a decent, perhaps winning, position to suffer another first round exit. There I was, poised to write about how her game had this year been instilled with the swagger of a boxer, how she was formerly an unapologetic spectacle-wearer which I found refreshing and charming, and that she had a decent shout of making at least round 4, where she would probably face French Open Champion Francesca Schiavone – who also fell at the first fence yesterday.

British tennis is in the doldrums, and has been for years. No Englishmen in the men’s draw this year for the first time ever, every man except Andy Murray will likely go out in the first round, and five ladies have fallen by the wayside already with only the “up and coming” (said with a wry smile) Heather Watson still to play.

I’m sick of the LTA telling us we have “up and coming” players. If so, where is their success? Where are our top 50 players? Even top 100? I once recorded a project with Tony Hawks, comedian and tennis enthusiast, and we had an enjoyable conversation dissecting the problems of the LTA. Of which there are many. Tony founded Tennis for Free, an admirable programme aiming to provide free courts and free coaching to kids to encourage them to take up the game, and also to encourage more people in general to play. Tennis is sometimes thought of as an expensive, elitist sport, but you’d be surprised at how many free public courts there are – and the best way to keep them that way is to go and use them. All year round if possible! And one day maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a new British Wimbledon champion. I hope his name might be Adam…we’ll see!

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