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Lawn Tennis Association performance director Michael Bourne backing Britain to develop more world-class players

Michael Bourne picks up the baton after succeeding Simon Timson as the new Lawn Tennis Association performance director; Bourne, who has backed the national academies in Loughborough and Stirling, says: "We want to have more players in the top 100 than we have now"

Michael Bourne - Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) performance director
Image: Michael Bourne says Great Britain are still on track to be a leading tennis nation by 2028

New Lawn Tennis Association performance director Michael Bourne believes Britain is on the right path to developing significantly greater numbers of world-class players.

Bourne, who has previously worked for UK Sport and the England and Wales Cricket Board, is now six months into the role after succeeding Simon Timson, who departed to take up a similar role at Manchester City.

When Timson launched the LTA's new performance strategy in 2018 it was with the vision of making Britain one of the most respected nations in the world for player development within 10 years.

Given the consistent underachievement of the organisation in that area, it was a bold statement, and there is little sign yet of it coming to fruition, but Bourne is happy to pick up the baton.

Speaking publicly for the first time, he said: "I believe very deeply in the potential of British players and I believe if we continue to commit to the level of stability in the right areas, and push on the things that we know really make the difference, we have a brilliant chance to do some very successful things.

"My experience tells me these things often don't progress in a linear fashion. A lot of the work that the team has done I think has really set the foundations for us to continue to be successful moving forwards. Certainly we want to have more players in the top 100 than we have now."

Image: The National Tennis Centre in Roehampton

Britain currently only has five players in the top 100 in men's and women's singles compared to 27 for the USA, 15 for France and Spain and 12 for rising force Italy.

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The LTA currently supports around 310 players in its performance pathway but central to the system are two very expensive national academies based at the universities of Loughborough and Stirling that support a small number of players through heavily subsidised places.

Opinion is split about whether this is the right approach but Bourne is a supporter and believes consistency of approach - another thing the LTA has pointedly lacked - is key.

"It's still very early for those centres," he said "We are committed to maintaining a consistency. The principal reason being, if we want to be a successful nation for player development over a long period of time, we need high-quality training environments in the UK for our players to choose.

"We aren't just going to sit back, wait five years and see what happens. It's very much about us working with those centres. We're constantly looking to learn and improve those environments."

Jannik Sinner Vs Roberto Bautista Agut during the semifinals at the 2021Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium on April 2, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Credit: mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX
Image: Jannik Sinner is Italy's rising star. The 19-year-old was runner-up at the Miami Open

Italy's growth in the men's game in particular has come on the back of a commitment to hosting a lot of tournaments at all professional levels.

The number of tournaments staged in Britain has dwindled in recent years and a reversal of that approach has been top of the wish list of most players.

Britain's Leon Smith smiles as he responds to a question during a news conference following the draw for the Davis Cup first round tie against Canada, Thursday Feb. 2, 2017 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)
Image: Leon Smith has promised things will change with more high-quality tournaments in Britain (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

Leon Smith, Davis Cup captain and head of men's tennis, offered assurances things will change, although COVID-19 restrictions have led the LTA to conclude hosting low-level events is currently not financially viable.

"We have to look at other ways to support the players this year," said Smith.

"But from 2022 we need to get more tournaments on the calendar, there's no doubt about that."

In other news, the LTA has announced the appointment of Luiz Procopio Carvalho as tournament director for the Queens Club Championships, held in London from June 12-20.

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