On Tuesday, the LTA announced Stirling and Loughborough Universities as the locations for Britain’s first national tennis academies, while outlining an ambitious project designed to revamp the sport in this country.
New CEO Scott Lloyd is set to introduce a 10-year plan designed to boost the number of British players in the top-100.
As tennis fans across the world wait anxiously to see if Andy Murray will be able to make a successful return to the court, the future of the sport on British shores remains a major concern for the LTA.
Funding will now be focused on the very best prospects, as Lloyd pushes to make Britain the envy of the world in producing top-class talent.
A maximum of 32 players will be selected for a full-time residential programme at either Stirling or Loughborough for a fee of just £5,000-per-annum.
The centres of excellence will be fed by 11 regional development centres, who will focus on harnessing talent all around throwing full support behind the very best. The LTA are extremely hopeful that the plan will boost participation from youngsters across the UK.
Lloyd made the following statement regarding the new scheme: “The new performance strategy has been designed to help create future British tennis champions, who we hope will continue to inspire others to play, watch, and enjoy the sport for generations to come.”
Currently there are just four players in the ATP and WTA top-100, and there has been an ongoing concern at the lack of top-level talent bursting through.
While it’s difficult to pluck the next Murray from thin air, Kyle Edmund’s rapid rise into the top-20 in the world is extremely encouraging for the LTA. At 23 years of age, Edmund has a long career ahead and will be expected to reach the top-10 by this time next year.
Edmund’s coach Frederik Rosengren recently spoke to Sky Sports regarding the young Brit’s ascension up the ranks, and he said: “I have worked with five top-10 guys and when you reach that ranking, everything changes. It’s much more stress and you have to love that. But he has all the tools to get there, I 100 per cent believe in that.”
The brains behind the new project are LTA performance director Simon Timson who has outlined on many occasions how difficult it will be in predicting the future of the ever-evolving sport that is tennis. Essentially they must design a player for 2028 rather than 2018.
Timson spoke recently to Metro.co.uk about the strategy: “If you look back to the mid 90s we probably wouldn’t have predicted the way that Federer, Nadal, Serena and Venus Williams are playing now and have endured at the top of the game into their 30s.
“We’ve seen the physical capacity and endurance over the years as players increase out of proportion. The ability to stay relatively injury free and successfully rehabilitate from serious injuries has changed significantly from 20 years ago.
“As we look forward, I think we can reasonably expect the physical capacities and capabilities of players to increase.
“Over the past 10 years, the average age at which both men and women break into the world’s top-10 is somewhere between the age of 21 and 22.
“That trend is relatively stable. Arguably, a small number of very elite players are distorting the view of the top-10, top-20 in the world right now, Let’s assume that it creeps a bit from 21 to 23 or 24, that’s still in the sweet spot of where this programme will deliver.”
Timson clearly believes that in an ever-evolving sport like tennis, players are peaking later and playing longer and therefore it is incredibly hard to anticipate what the future holds in terms of the development of young British talent.
One question that has been raised to the LTA, is if Britain is equipped with enough top-tier coaches to execute the plans of the LTA’s top brass.
Timson Added: “We are working on the development and implementation of a coach career pathway that will sit alongside this pathway and will mirror each bit. What we want to do is develop genuine coaching expertise in this country.
“We want to develop British coaches with age and stage specific expertise. What it takes to coach a high potential young 10 or 11-year old is quite different tactically, technically, physically, emotionally to what it takes to coach an 18-year-old who is taking their first steps on the pro-tour and to an established 27-year old in the top-20.”
Wimbledon is now less than three weeks away and the LTA will be counting on Kyle Edmund, Cameron Norrie, Heather Watson, Jo Konta and hopefully a healthy Andy Murray to compete and push far in the competition.
There are many challenges that lie ahead in what essentially is a complete over-haul of top-level British tennis, but if Timson and Lloyd’s masterplan can be brought to life, the future of the sport in this country is extremely bright.
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