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Faithful Txurigorri
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French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

A familiar face was stalking the grimy corridors of the Palais Omnisports this week - Patrice Hagelauer, coach to Yannick Noah when he won the 1983 French Open. Hagelauer was hired to become the director of performance at the Lawn Tennis Association in 1998 - he departed, unfulfilled, four years later and has now been restored to lead the French Federation (FFT) in its determination to retain its foremost position in the hierarchy of world tennis.

A changing of the guard at the FFT has brought openness and experience back to a country that has never gone in for handing its heritage to those of another nation the way Britain has fumbled and fidgeted in the past twenty years, with an Australian Davis Cup captain, a French performance director (Hagelauer) and now, everywhere you turn, a Belgian in a position of technical influence.

Hagelauer had spent three years helping cement the influence of Team Lagardere, the brainchild of Arnaud Lagardere, who runs the family conglomerate which has interests in publishing, media, retail, aerospace and has a love of sport, especially tennis. A number of French players are now represented by the Lagadere group, including Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils and Julien Benneteau, bolstered by a number of quality French coaches.

The FFT watched the Lagadere recruitment drive with a concern that often bordered on paranoia. Now, with Hagelauer - a man of infinite wisdom and knowledge - restored to the federation with Gilbert Ysern, as director-general of the federation and Roland Garros, a sense of calm has descended. A couple of the players who had been working at the Lagadere flagship have crossed the road, literally, to Roland Garros from Stade Jean Bouin, the Lagardere headquarters. Hagelauer emphasises, though, how vital it is for French tennis that every element flourishes.

Chatting with the Net Post, Hagelauer's mantra was plain. "Good coaching, good coaching, good coaching," he said. "It is vital we have this at every level and that one level feeds the next with a clear strategy. In the aspect of coach education we have always been strong (the LTA has had four different directors in the past four years) and those in charge of that programme are excellent people."

There are four elements to the Hagelauer philosophy - regional, national, international and coach education. At regional level, he says - "whatever we do as a nation begins in the clubs and the coaching in the clubs, in every department. This is what I was trying to develop in the UK. The imperative aspect is the junior programme, that those who are in charge of the players at 8, 9 at 12. There can be no mistakes at that age. We need the right ideas, but also we need to listen. It is about building a pathway to excellence.

"Then we have the national programme, with 14 centres of excellent across the country and we have to make sure we take care of those with better management systems. Everybody needs to work together. At the international level there are currently 32 players - double last year's number - who are working at Roland Garros. We have seven players in the top 100, 11 in the top 200 and many other junior players working through the rankings (Note to the LTA: we are only talking singles players here, doubles does not figure). It is important that players like Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra, those with great experience, can mix with the younger ones, because they act as points of reference."

Out of the blue, Hagelauer nominated 30-year-old Arnaud Di Pasquale to become the head of the men's section, with Alexia Dechaume-Balleret, taking on similar responsibilities for the women. "These are people with proven playing track records from the juniors to significant world rankings. With Arnaud, he is going to be responsible for supporting almost 20 players, but he knows them by heart and they know him, there is trust."

From the moment Hagelauer was appointed and said that those working for him are, for the present, going to 'be French and only French', the lines from so many former players were humming. "Yannick 9Noah) told me that I only had to ring him and he would be there. The same is true of Amelie Mauresmo. Everyone wants to be a part of what we are doing. I am so very pleased with that."

And so, unlike the situation in Britain, where many former players with proven coaching track records feel they have no part to play in the sport under its current ownership, where to have been attached to the past is to be treated as a relic, dismissed as an interference rather than someone who might be able to help. It is very sad. And very wrong.

SW19 still the LTA's crown jewel

The All England Club and the LTA were quick off the mark in raising their objections to the recommendations of David Davies' review into events that should be protected for live broadcast on free-to-air television. Their response to the recommendation that the whole Wimbledon championships should be protected would - "severely compromise the Club’s ability to negotiate its TV rights in an open competitive market place".

Suggesting that grass roots funding would be damaged, the club said that all the profits from Wimbledon are given to the LTA to reinvest in the development of infrastructure and British tennis players. They argued that "any artificial curtailing of the competitiveness of the TV rights’ marketplace caused by listing the entire Championships is bound to mean less money will be available for the LTA to invest in grass roots tennis and the players of the future."

The Davies report had been based - they said - on "erroneous information" and that "in virtually its only reference to Wimbledon, it quotes Frontier Economics which says 'although broadcast revenues are a significant source of revenue for Wimbledon, much of these accrue from overseas broadcasters unaffected by the UK’s listing policy. Any changes to the proceeds from the sale of UK broadcasting rights (arising from a change in the listed status of the event) may therefore have only a limited impact on the LTA’s funding of UK tennis programmes’. This is completely wrong. UK broadcast rights do form the major share of Wimbledon’s broadcast income. Therefore any change in listing which limits the competitiveness of the UK market-place will definitely have a material effect on the LTA’s income."

Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the All England Club, said: "Wimbledon has been extremely successful and it seems strange at this time to alter a model that works for viewers, the public and funding of tennis. We value our relationship with the BBC but the market place needs to be balanced. The proposed change is based on entirely erroneous information and will seriously damage our ability to obtain the best deal for The Championships and for British tennis. Listing the whole event is not in the interests of Wimbledon or tennis fans and we will be vigorous in presenting our case during the consultation period.”

In his enduringly excellent column in the Mail on Sunday, Patrick Collins wrote at the weekend. "Cricket will serve as the battleground for this argument, since it is here that the problem is most sharply defined. True, there was a small squeak from Roger Draper, the chief executive of the LTA, who complained that listing Wimbledon would have a 'negative impact' on their ability to 'develop British talent'. The LTA receive about £30m a year, every year, to do just that. Suffice to say 2010 will be the 74th anniversary of Fred Perry’s singles victory at Wimbledon."

It would perhaps concentrate the specificity of the argument if, at their annual general meeting next month, the LTA gave a transparent breakdown of how the money they receive from Wimbledon (£29.2m this year) is spent, on whom and on what. Could we know, for instance, the wages and bonuses paid to the executive and the Tennis Leadership Team? Then, maybe, we can enter a serious debate and strike a balance between what is invested in the grass roots (which got everyone hot under the collar when Davies' recommendations became public) and on the performance side of the game where the sport has failed for decades to deliver on targets and promises.

Murray attracts praise in defeat

Jean-Francois Caujolle, tournament director of the BNP Paribas Masters, singled out Andy Murray for special praise at his end-of-event review and disclosed that next year there could be a dramatic change to the format in Paris. There is a powerful case, Caujolle believes, for the tournament to become a 32 rather than 48 man draw - "for it is quite normal that the draws become progressively smaller in order to arrive towards the Masters where there are only eight players."

He said Murray had been a victim of the current numbers and the consequent pressure it places on scheduling with only one court at the Palais Omnisport of a standard required for an event of this prestige. "[Murray] ended one match on Wednesday at 1.45am and there had been a real problem with the scheduling that day because we had six matches to play on he Centre Court," Caujolle said. The problem had been exacerbated by Marat Safin's three set loss to Juan Martin Del Potro, after which there was an extended retirement celebration for the Russian that put another spanner in the works.

"The next day Murray had to play on Court No 1 (against Radek Stepanek) and sincerely I believe he would not have lost that match if it had been on the Centre. He was a victim of those problems we have with a tournament with 48 players. He was extremely decent and said nothing about it. He just said the other player was better than him."

Caujolle revealed that his plans for a reduction in draw size would be put to the ATP Board next week. He also declared that an ATP 250 tournament would be scheduled in the same week as Paris next year - "so we are not only guaranteeing the existing jobs of the players but creating new ones," he said. "I trust it will be possible."

Murray made a point of mentioning in the press conference after his defeat to Stepanek that he had heard there would be 200 journalists attending the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena. That is a pretty formidable level of media interest but the Net Post hears that not one of those writers is coming from the United States; whether Andy Roddick comes or not. It is quite some dark moment in tennis-writing history that not a single member from America will make the trip, and this from the richest nation in the tennis world. Truly terrible news.

Rafa in the swing of things

It is not easy to get the subject away from golf when you bump into Rafael Nadal and it was the same this week. He has only ever played once on a British course and would like to have a far wider experience of our courses. That, and the Net Post learns he is a great admirer of Ross Fisher, the English professional who was deep in contention for the Open Championship at Turnberry this year until he came to grief with a quadruple bogey eight on the 5th hole of his final round. "I had a great sensation and sensitivity for what happened to Fisher," Nadal said. "He is one of my favourite players."

Taylor makes a Dent on return to top 100

We could not be more delighted to report that, with his 6-3, 7-6 victory over Ilja Bozoljac of Serbia in the final of the ATP Challenger in Knoxville, Tennessee, American Taylor Dent is back in the world's top 100 almost four years after it was feared that a terrible back injury would rob him of his career altogether. It has been a long, often painful progress but Dent is making the most of his second chance and everyone in the sport is grateful for that. In conversation with Phil Brook, Wimbledon's chairman-to-be, many moons ago, the Net Post suggested Dent would win a grand slam one day. He may yet give me a run for my optimism.
Isn't the spanish model way much more successful? (Slams, Masters, Olympics, DC, number of top players, etc)

and I'm not just talking about right now, but the last 20 years or so
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

spanish is just survival of the fittest... lta already copy the french... spanish system just puts the carrot at the end of the junior path, doesnt feed it to 'em young... no rocket science needed for this method... just get as many kids playing till they adults by placing rewards at the end of juniors, not before... how many weeks did spain host a futures tournament this year..? how about last year...? not including challengers or atp tour events... there is something going on most weeks if you wanna make a name for yourself... just you gotta do it in the pros... not before...
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

still, if the LTA is copying the french system, it has been a total failure, I don't believe that I'm gonna say this, but at least France has some top players unlike the UK who only has Murray
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

Not sure how it is in France, it seems easier to be able to play there, and is more accessible to people of different backgrounds, whereas in the UK, the sport still seems to be for the upper middle classes.

Spain has an excellent club structure with the regional federations, but as fast_clay said, there are many tournaments there, once the players do well in their clubs and they are ready to play on tour.
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

yes AJ, but it wasn't always like that, nowadays Spain is strong in many sports because both the government and the private sector are supporting it, building good arenas, giving support to the players, etc

The whole Spanish success started with something called Objetivo '92 on which the spanish sportspeople started preparing for the Barcelona Olympics, from then on, the success made it possible for the upcoming generations and we're getting excellent results in nearly every sport (football, basketball, handball, tennis, soccer, volleyball, etc)

What I said is that the LTA should try to get more support from the private sector (since it seems like the government isn't up to the task) and get a much better club structure, instead of copying another country's model which works with the infrastructure they have but not with the LTA one

The countries that are getting better results have all been growing in clay and it's quite hard to find that in the UK, at least for the general public
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

It will not take off for a long time in the UK because as AJ pointed out, it is too inaccessible for the masses.

Shit weather. Not many great free courts. Generally poor facilities.

The places with the best courts are tennis clubs that are very aristocratic. They can cost hundreds to a thousand pounds for membership. One of the local clubs around here spends most of its time advertising events such as wine tastings, so all the old upper middle class ladies and gents can have a spiffing old time...

It's a shithouse culture for tennis here, no wonder kids aren't interested.
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

face facts that tennis is no where near popular in GB as it is in France and Spain, simple as that.

why do the Spanish and French not produce world class snooker and darts players? they should learn from us.
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

nah Mikey, we're too busy producing top football, basketball and tennis players :p
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

To get anywhere in the uk your parents must have a slightly larger than normal income, not be selfish enough so that they spend it for you on tennis, get into an academy somewhere from a young age and there you go. While im sure in spain that doesnt apply so much, because there are that many more players that more parents are willing to send their kids away and stuff because they are not so selfish unlike the English who are pig headed selfish twats all the way from the top. So much that one person being elected as the head of the lta wont be able to change anything unless he can give 6 hours a day coaching from when someone is 8 for everyone who plays tennis for free.
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

Isn't the spanish model way much more successful? (Slams, Masters, Olympics, DC, number of top players, etc)

and I'm not just talking about right now, but the last 20 years or so
The Spanish system has produced clay surface specialists mostly.

Nadal is the only Spanish player in the open era to win a Grand Slam on a surface other than clay. Sweden with a much smaller population has achieved more Grand Slam wins on a greater diversity of surfaces.
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

I agree with you in that Dr Jules, but it is easier to switch from clay to other surfaces than the other way around, the movement you learn playing on clay cannot be learned in other surfaces and it's vital to construct a good game

Nowadays Spain is getting more and more different surfaces, we got a Masters 1000 played in indoor HC till last year, now we got Valencia as well and the facilities are getting more and more different surfaces than before, so the future of our tennis players isn't as bad in the rest of surfaces, Verdasco, our other top 10 player is much better on hard than in clay for example

Sweden has been a great place for champions since Borg, but in the last 10 years (bar Johannson) they haven't gotten real champions, so it has got to do a lot with the sustainability of the tennis program, something Spain and France excel at ;)
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

I agree with you in that Dr Jules, but it is easier to switch from clay to other surfaces than the other way around, the movement you learn playing on clay cannot be learned in other surfaces and it's vital to construct a good game

Nowadays Spain is getting more and more different surfaces, we got a Masters 1000 played in indoor HC till last year, now we got Valencia as well and the facilities are getting more and more different surfaces than before, so the future of our tennis players isn't as bad in the rest of surfaces, Verdasco, our other top 10 player is much better on hard than in clay for example

Sweden has been a great place for champions since Borg, but in the last 10 years (bar Johannson) they haven't gotten real champions, so it has got to do a lot with the sustainability of the tennis program, something Spain and France excel at ;)
Sweden with only around 9 million people is never in the long term going to sustain it at the previous level, but Spain and France have more than 4 times the population. Realistically if they produce 1 grand slam winner a decade and at least 1 player in the top 10 (current decade)they are doing very well given their population
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

yes, and the French example shows it, their latest GS champ is Noah back in the early 80's, two full decades without a title :shrug:

the UK with their 60? million people should be able to develop a good sustainable model for their tennis youth

same goes for Australia and USA, former tennis powerhouses, whom have lost a lot of their shine in the latest years
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

Tennis isn't really popular in the States, and I think it's mostly been declining. Tennis was much more popular during the McEnroe/Conners/etc era than in the last 20 years. America's best athletes get pulled into basketball, american football, etc that are much more popular, so I'm not surprised they don't have that many up and comers right now.

As for England, I have no idea. The French for sure develops some very talented players, but they also seem to develop mentally weak players...
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

yes, the Frenchies tend to be huge headcases :eek:
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

Our model really isn't that enviable, plenty of top 100 players all right who own the MM tourneys, but hardly a grand slam contender since Noah.

I'm glad we have JWT, Gillou, even la Monf, they all have good personalities to boot, but potential wise I'd prefer Muzzug.
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

many different systems will work... of course the system you put in place has to be a sound one to begin with, but, the main things are that a) you stick with that system for a solid period of time and dont chop and change, and... b) it has the belief of all participants top to bottom... the second point would lend itself well to making transparent where all funding goes... whether this already happens at the lta i am not sure...

again, i'd refer to the spanish systems where if you check the new itf futures program for 2010 you have pro futures tournaments already listed 10 of 12 weeks... what is known about the spanish system is that they have a high dropout rate of juniors... but, this matters not because inside the tennis culture there is a massive volume of players so the drop out rate is negated...

what is enviable of this system now, is that you have a long list of stars competing on the world stage week in week out... so, if you dangle a carrot at the end of the junior path, you get this cycle where you drag the best right through, and, it is a hard, battle-weary road... part of the problem in over investing in junior talent is that you can sometimes reward mediocrity and players are too comfortable by the time a player needs to break into tour main...

another pleasing byproduct of a system like this is a player like oscar hernandez, who, at 29, breaks the top 50 for the first time... the culture again is seen to be rewarding players 18+... you cant tell me a 3 set battle with The King would not teach a budding 17 year old spaniard a thing or two... its a great culture... not only that, spain becomes a feared place to travel to pick up the odd point... it has an aura, and so, you get mighty fields exclusively iberian gaurenteeing that many home grown prospects pick up points... so, yeah, rewarding senior players equally is right and just and is very transparent... its not rocket science...

the lta would be well served in investing in a few crack teams of tournament organisers at futures and money tournament level that enable players to compete for cash week in week out... this would play on the strength of the great britain itself, where, distances travelled between major cities is minimal compared with most tennis playing nations... more money should be invested here... british tennis have a good figurehead in murray, not only would he help serve to inspire players to play on for longer, but, it would also be wise to get him onside and publicly say 'yeah, here is a system that rewards hard work, no matter what age you are... talent and hard work have no age...'
 

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Re: French could teach the LTA how to develop talent

Sweden with only around 9 million people is never in the long term going to sustain it at the previous level, but Spain and France have more than 4 times the population. Realistically if they produce 1 grand slam winner a decade and at least 1 player in the top 10 (current decade)they are doing very well given their population
There are lots of reasons for that, it was one a special generation and then they got lazy, expected it to happen all the way through without looking at the latest trends, in addition to a federation that doesn't have much cash.
 

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Why can't Great Britain and Australia produce a bunch of top 100 players like France, USA, and Spain can? Both nations host a Grand Slam, Both nations had Grand Slam winners before, Both nations have storied tennis history.

Cuz as of now, Australia has a couple of players in top 100 and Great Britain only has Andy Murray whereas France, USA, Spain have a bunch of players in the top 100.


So what's the problem? Will it ever change?
 
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