Tennis hit the headlines for the wrong reasons this week as Sport England warned the LTA it risks losing funding unless success is found at the top and bottom of the national sport.
According to Sport England director, Phil Smith, the LTA must improve their performances at a basic participation level in order to retain their much-needed funding for future years, a target that can only be reached if the professionals succeed and inspire a new generation.
“They’ve got a big summer ahead,” Smith told BBC Sport. “The track record of participation in tennis has been pretty poor. The crunch time is December.”
Sport England have already reduced annual tennis funding from £24.5m to £17.4m until 2017 and a further cut would greatly hamper the current crop of young teenagers who have the potential to make it at pro level.
What the LTA need are more kids playing the sport and the best way to inspire them is by boasting a champion player who can win several tennis events in the year.
Andy Murray is a magnificent example of professionalism and sporting brilliance that got kids on the courts last summer when he won Olympic gold, while the women’s draw is growing stronger each month as Heather Watson and Laura Robson rise through the WTA ranks.
Yet simply competing is not enough to inspire the next set of British players. We desperately need a wealth of champions to come through and make tennis a more watchable sport for kids, which is why these next few months are so important.
The goals this summer should therefore be to have a British player crowned Wimbledon champion – most likely Murray, who is favourite in the Betfair odds – and to boast tournament champions in the WTA.
Watson broke a 24-year drought last October when she became the first woman since Sara Gomer to win a tour event. The media frenzy was great but short-lived and we title success to become commonplace if the news is to make the back pages and start attracting kids attentions.
Success is everything in tennis and for too long Britain has had little to boast about. The LTA is on the brink of something special if this trio of talents impress this summer and the future of its funding may rest on that alone.
The views expressed here are by Betfair.com and do not represent those of TennisReporters.net.