By Nick Harris
11 March 2010
Nick Bollettieri believes the current crisis in British tennis has “deep cultural and historical roots” and that “there’s even an argument that Britain is not a tennis nation.”
The veteran American coach, who has helped a record 10 players to reach No1 in the world, including Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova, adds: “Sure, you stage the most prestigious event in the world – Wimbledon. But your national sports are soccer and cricket . . . tennis is part of a social scene.”
Bollettieri, 78, who still works from 5am to sunset every day at his Florida academy, says that to place the blame for Britain’s ills on the LTA chief executive, Roger Draper, is “to misidentify the problem” and ignores the fact that Britain has not been a major tennis power for a long time.
“Generations of British tennis winners never existed, not this side of the black and white movie era,” he writes in his sportingintelligence.com column today.
The British game, especially on the men’s side, is under scrutiny because Great Britain lost to Lithuania last weekend in the Davis Cup, their fifth successive defeat. This has raised questions over the future of Draper, although sportingintelligence understands Draper has no intention of leaving his post. He has a contract until 2013.
Nor is there any prospect that Davis Cup captain John Lloyd will be sacked, at least until after an internal LTA review. Tim Henman today ruled himself out of the running for that not-yet-vacant post, while Greg Rusedski is perceived to be waiting on the sidelines.
Bollettieri, whose academy has been the home in recent years to one of the Lithuanians who beat Britain – Ricardas Berankis – says that in an ideal world he would advise the construction of an elite hot-housing academy in England, which could also be open to international scholars. “Put your best and the best of the rest together,” he writes.
In the meantime, he advises placing Britain’s brightest young players in tougher environments, abroad if necessary.
Bollettieri also reveals he has been invited by Draper to deliver the keynote address at a major coaches conference on the eve of Wimbledon, where the pair will also get the opportunity to discuss ways in which Bollettieri may assist British tennis.
Sportingintelligence’s front page today
Remember “White Men Can’t Jump” (about basketball)? They can, of course, just not as successfully to judge by the NBA as black men.
Black men can’t play tennis? They don’t, at any rate, neither do black women, the Williams sisters apart.
They don’t play golf (Tiger Woods apart), badminton, squash, winter sports, sailing, cricket (the West Indies apart–look at South Africa).
And when was the last time you even saw a black man or woman on a horse?
These are all, to a greater or lesser degree, elitist sports, catering to the wealthier sections of society.
On the other hand, given a level playing field (as it were), black athletes do well, or are outstanding. Think athletics. Think even more, football.
Oddly, there is far more discussion of ‘racism’ in football than any other sport. Largely because of the idiotic behaviour of a few fans, or the failure so far of a black manager to succeed.
Yet if you look at the players, here and worldwide, football is far more colour-blind than any other sport.
Such a tennis.
Perhaps if the LTA made a greater effort to recruit black kids–or poorer kids of any hue–we might have more success.
I mean, what greater elitist event is there than Wimbledon?
Except Henley. Yeah, I forgot to mention that black men can’t row.