Under-performing tennis players should have funding cut, says sports minister
Published 25/06/2009 | 04:39
Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe thinks Britain's under-performing tennis players should have their funding cut if their results are not up to scratch.
Only two of Britain's 11 representatives in the first round of the singles at Wimbledon made it through to round two - Andy Murray and Elena Baltacha - which Sutcliffe described as "not good enough".
And he feels the Lawn Tennis Association should learn from other Olympic sports, where a policy of only funding those who meet their targets brought a bumper medal haul in Beijing last year.
Sutcliffe told BBC Radio Five Live: "I'm getting tired of the excuses, we need to find a way now to be successful.
"If you look at the Olympics last year, look what UK Sport are doing - we put funding in and we have world-class performances.
"Those athletes don't get paid if they don't perform, and I think that's one of the key issues we need to look at.
"Tennis gets £25million from Wimbledon, £30million from AEGON (as part of a five-year sponsorship deal) and £27million from Sport England, public money that goes into grassroots."
Alex Bogdanovic has become the flag-bearer for British failure, with eight defeats from eight wild card appearances at the All England Club.
The LTA have now decided not to recommend Bogdanovic for a wild card next year even if he is ranked in the world's top 250.
Paul Annacone, the head coach of men's tennis, said: "Boggo knows the clock is ticking fast and, for Wimbledon, it maybe has stopped for him and he's in only on his own merits now.
"There comes a time when you think enough is enough and I think Boggo probably realises this is his last opportunity."
Annacone also revealed the LTA may stop funding Bogdanovic if he does not make progress during the second half of the year.
"His process and progress for the rest of the year will define that," added Annacone.
There was better news for Bogdanovic yesterday when he and James Ward reached the second round of the men's doubles with a 6-4 6-4 6-4 win over David Martin and Jean-Claude Scherrer.
And the British number three has decided doubles may be where his future lies in the game.
"I had a lot of fun out there and I just realised I can play good doubles," he said. "I think I could be a really good doubles player. I think I might start that route.
"And singles, who knows. Play some qualies (qualifiers) of ATP events and see what happens."
Bogdanovic, who was born in Serbia but moved to Britain at the age of seven, feels the decision not to offer him another wild card is fair - but the degree of criticism he has received is not.
He continued: "I've had my chances and unfortunately couldn't take them. Now it's just up to me to work hard and get up there by ranking.
"I think I was British number two for a while and obviously I'm easy to criticise because I'm next after Andy Murray.
"Every time you lose, people are going to say, 'Yeah, he's not going to win another match'."