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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 July, 2003, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK

McEnroe 'ready to help Brits'

McEnroe could have a dual role

Britain's tennis chief is confident he can get John McEnroe to help rebuild the game in the country following another disastrous showing at Wimbledon.

Tim Henman was the only Brit to reach the second week of the tournament, which McEnroe won three times.

Lawn Tennis Association chief executive John Crowther is actively chasing McEnroe to help raise standards in Britain.

"I've had a chat with John in the last two weeks. It was a very good chat, one to one, and I think we're going to get our act together," Crowther told BBC Radio Five Live.

"There are two possible opportunities. The first is he works with David Felgate on three coaching camps and he will hopefully deal with the Alex Bogdanovics of this world, and on the girls side as well.

Great inspirer

"But I think it will also inspire new kids to come into tennis with our inner-city tennis programme. I've seen him at work and he is a great inspirer."

When asked why the LTA cannot recruit the likes of a McEnroe or Boris Becker for a full year, Crowther responded: "People like McEnroe and Becker don't have a 52-week ability to commit.

"Getting McEnroe for three weeks is using his skills best for the job."


I highlighted the "inspirer" portion of the article because I think it points to the good and bad portions of this plan.

I read about the inner-city program in an article last year or the year before. While I found it interesting, this approach to getting youth involvement in sport isn't novel to tennis or the U.K. Have any of the board's members from England heard on going news of this program since its' inception? In the context of this article, I have to ask if the inner-city program was developed for the good of the sport or out of desperation for a home country champion? The article implies the latter.

I believe McEnroe knows the ins and outs of tennis as evidence by the success of his career. I don't believe his personality or schedule will be advantageous to the LTA in this capacity, though. He and Boris may be on friendly terms today. But, when Boris was near the end of his career, McEnroe tried coaching him. They didn't mesh. While he loves his country and Davis Cup, I didn't think his captaincy was touted as a crowning achievement. I don't think he stunk up the joint, either. I just don't think he's a "people person". John is John and he's coming at you full force. Can he spot a "diamond in the rough" from the inner-city? I'm not so sure that's his forte.

I believe that the U.K. is a patriachal society like the U.S. But, if the LTA groomed 10 pre-teens or a few very sharp young teens, I think they could crack the female top 20 in no time. I know they're hungry for a male champion. But, they might have to import one the way U.S. colleges pay big bucks for American football players to travel to U.S. outposts because they don't have any local talent.

Are there any young male Brits on the horizon?

What are your thoughts?

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Yes, I doubt McEnroe will be the right person for the job - the truly great players never make the best coaches, and I think the same would apply here. It's true, people here are far too obsessed on finding another Wimbledon winner rather than developing the sport as a whole. There's really no consideration of developing players who can compete full-time on the ATP Tour - there are virtually no clay courts, and not many indoor courts either, which are vital given our usual climate.
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