• Tennis

Cosseted Brits to be shown 'real world'

ESPN staff
April 23, 2014
Michael Downey took over from Roger Draper in January © Getty Images

Young British players have to been told they have it too easy by Michael Downey, the new chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association.

He wants to change the mentality of potential future stars and says they must toughen up and learn to cope with "real world" conditions if they are to succeed.

"Does the average player and the average coach in Britain actually know what it takes?" Downey asked. "What Andy Murray has done is really, really difficult. Part of it might be that we as a federation are at times doing too much. We need to make them hungry.

Downey, who took over the role from Roger Draper in January, was instrumental in the development of Canadian players Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil and Eugenie Bouchard - all in the world's top 30 - during nine years as president of Tennis Canada.

During his first few weeks in his new role he said he would help expand the sport in the UK and build on the success of Wimbledon champion Murray, but claimed young talents need to play abroad - like Murray did when he moved to Spain as a teenager - if they want to progress.

"I talked to Jeremy Bates [the LTA's head coach of women's tennis] this morning and he made a very good point," Downey said.

"It is important that the best kids in Britain have to go on the road, play in a country that may not have great facilities and learn to lose in the first round - then stay there and train in those conditions before they move on.

"We don't have those conditions in Britain. You play in a challenger in Britain and it is a very good environment. It is great that we can deliver that, but it is also not the real world in terms of what these kids are going to face 30 or 40 weeks a year.

"That's a toughness that we are going to have to create. We are competing with countries where, for some of those kids, it's about getting to a better life; it's not just about succeeding at tennis and that provides a different level of fight. We have to find ways of replicating that with the best talent this country possesses."

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