Although the emergence of Laura Robson and Heather Watson on the world scene would appear to portray British women’s tennis as having a very bright future, Judy Murray maintains there are serious underlying issues that must be addressed if things are to continue long-term.
Murray, mother of world no.3 Andy and for the last 13 months British Fed Cup captain and the person responsible for the resurgence of British female tennis , a remit of working with Britain’s leading junior girls and mentoring female coaches.
Issues further down the age scale from 20 year-old Watson and Robson, 19 years old yesterday, concern Murray; basically the apparent lack of sufficient numbers of potentially talented players who could mature into successors to the emergent pair. “It’s great to see Laura and Heather moving up, being successful and constantly improving their ranking,” said Murray.
“Yet there is a danger their success masks the problems we are currently having in British female tennis. Quite simply there aren’t enough girls or women simply playing the game.”
Talent identification is something on which Murray has focused upon since taking her job. When it comes to players in the their early teens, she’s quite happy with the duo of Maia Lumsden and Gabi Taylor who contested last month’s Orange Bowl Under 14 final combined along with Jazzi Plews to form Britain’s team that finished finalists in last summer’s World Junior Tennis Finals in the Czech Republic.
Added there is a sense of pride in Murray when she talks of Britain’s best under 12 year-old, Ali Collins who hails from her own hometown of Dunblane.
“The problem we have is that in the youngest age group between seven and nine years old, we have managed to identify only about 20 girls and the way things go by the time they get to 12 years of age, because of the natural drop our rate there will only be six to eight of them left because they are sufficiently committed or want to do other things,” continued Murray.
“Then by the time they’re 14, maybe only four to six girls will still be determined to carry so right now our pool for the future is very small.”
Murray has therefore prioritized forming a long term plan to ensure numbers rise and that involves getting more females, mothers and elder sisters playing tennis because that will also encourage youngsters to pick up rackets and get involved.
“We have to find really appeals; girls are not like boys in that they don’t like to be so competitive and there are other exercise options to them where they can be social with their friends like dance classes, which possibly aren’t so expensive as tennis,” she said.
“So we maybe need to overhaul several departments such as competitions, rankings and ratings and coaching to keep youngsters involved. Basically there are not enough women coaches and that’s crucial because young girls at grass roots level find it much easier to work with a lady coach than a man.”
Murray intends to use Robson and Watson as role models to broaden her talent base and she maintained: “They are perfect. Both have very sparky fun personalities but they are very different from one another in terms of game styles and looks. They are perfect poster girls for a talent campaign.”
©Daily Tennis News Wire