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LTA chief believes trophy success will serve to inspire UK

By Eleanor Crooks

Published 01/12/2015

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Newly appointed LTA Chief Executive Michael Downey speaks to the media during a press conference to unveil the new CEO of the LTA at the National Tennis Centre on September 24, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for LTA)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Newly appointed LTA Chief Executive Michael Downey speaks to the media during a press conference to unveil the new CEO of the LTA at the National Tennis Centre on September 24, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for LTA)

Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Michael Downey is confident Great Britain's Davis Cup triumph can lead to a growth in the game in the UK.

The LTA were heavily criticised by figures inside and outside the game for the failure to capitalise on Andy Murray's Wimbledon success in 2013.

Participation actually fell in the months following his victory over Novak Djokovic and the LTA were faced with losing some funding from Sport England.

The latest figures were more encouraging but the relatively narrow base is widely seen as the main reason why Britain's strength in depth at the top of the game is so poor.

The woeful participation figures led at least in part to Downey's predecessor Roger Draper leaving the organisation, with the Canadian taking over at the start of 2014.

But, two years into the job, Downey is under pressure over his record so far, with the LTA appearing to lack direction.

He insisted Britain's stunning and unexpected Davis Cup success, earned with victory over Belgium in Ghent this weekend, will not be another missed opportunity.

Downey cited Britain's first Davis Cup tie next year, against Japan in Birmingham in March, as the ideal time to really push participation.

He said: "These are very special, emotional moments that can actually drive interest in our sport, there's no doubt about it.

"We need to keep in mind the time of year we have got. Participation peaks when you head into the spring/summer period. We've probably got a couple of great weeks of coverage (now). That is going to encourage participation.

"We are hoping this team wins Team of the Year (at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show). That would happen later in December.

"Then we will head towards that March period. Our team gets to come back to a home tie in Birmingham and that's going to be the time when we really want to see the activation hit a high level."

Former Davis Cup captain David Lloyd criticised Andy Murray in an interview ahead of the tie for not putting enough back into British tennis.

His comments have been widely slated, and Downey stressed that winning on the court is the best way for Britain's No.1 player to contribute.

"He not only led this team to a grand championship that this nation hasn't had in 79 years, but no-one can question his commitment," Downey said.

Downey, meanwhile, is also hopeful Britain will have a new player to call on next year, with Aljaz Bedene's appeal against ineligibility due to be heard in by the International Tennis Federation board in March.

The British No.2 is barred from playing in Davis Cup for Britain because he has already represented his native Slovenia.

Downey said: "The case is solid. He's a proud Brit. He now has citizenship. He deserves to play for Great Britain."

Belfast Telegraph

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