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Friday, October 24, 2008

"Horror Show" in British Junior Tennis; Broadys Say No to LTA Funding

Just how much more important the sport of tennis is in Great Britain than here in the U.S. is illustrated by these three recently published newspaper stories about junior tennis and its governing body.

The first, with a rather sensational tabloid-style headline from the respectable Independent of "Junior tennis serves up a horror show" is a discussion, prompted by the comments of former British greats Annabel Croft and Jo Durie, of the pressure and misbehavior that accompanies junior tennis matches in that country. I can't dispute anything that any of the quoted people have to say--I've witnessed blatant cheating and unbecoming behavior by parents and children (although little I would classify as violent); I agree that there needs to be more supervision (which means more money spent), especially at the younger ages, and I also agree that this is hardly an issue confined to junior tennis. But tennis's one-on-one nature does contribute to the ugliness, just as it plays a major role in the sport's appeal. Croft describes her daughter's decision to quit junior tennis, saying:

"I think my daughter just wasn't cut out for it; she's incredibly laid back. Either you're cut out for it or you're not – if you're rather sensitive it's not really for you."

Again, I agree, but it only serves to enhance my admiration for those young players who do continue, who take the best from it, reject the worst, and emerge wiser without surrendering their integrity.

The other story, brought to light by Neil Harman of the Times, in his must-read weekly column, details the history and consequences of the rift between the Broadys and the LTA. Liam, the 14-year-old Les Petit As finalist, and his older sister Naomi, a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon Juniors this year, are not accepting funding from the LTA. The Daily Mail also had coverage of this spat.

As for the U.S., I'm still awaiting any newspaper or magazine mention of the major changes at the USTA, which now include the naming of Ola Malmqvist as head of women's tennis, and Jay Berger as head of men's tennis.


former junior star said...


Thank you for your comment about the juniors who do stay with it despite the pressure and sometimes difficult situations they have to address. Tennis is the great equalizer. If you can handle the pressure with grace as a young person, you will go very far in life. That is the true beauty of the sport.

AndrewD said...


Neil Harman's column is a 'must avoid', not a must-read. It's the worst type of trash and a perfect example of what is wrong with journalism - of all sorts but most especially tennis journalism. He builds up a subject only to tear it down at a later, more convenient stage. He ignores facts, misrepresents the ones he does include and is an absolute blight on what used to be a great newspaper. In short, he's a reactionary whose responses are solely dictated by whatever he feels will generate the most ill-will for those in charge of British tennis (a typical example of the whinger mentality that dominates UK sports journalism).

The standard you've maintained, throughout the course of this blog, is so much higher than anything Harman has done it seems somehow inappropriate to even mention him on this site.