BRITISH tennis bosses admit they still do not know how to make the most of Andy Murray winning Wimbledon – almost a year after the Scot’s SW19 triumph.
Lawn Tennis Association chief executive Michael Downey admitted he is yet to talk directly with Murray about using his “brand” to boost new junior recruits to the sport.
Downey confirmed the LTA will appoint a marketing and communications specialist, as the British game’s governing body continues to wrestle with capitalising on Murray’s elevated profile.
Downey conceded the LTA are still searching for the right “strategy” for exploiting Murray’s status as a double-grand slam winner and the first British Wimbledon champion for 77 years.
“We want to go into discussions, but it’s all about how to use his brand rather than just put it out there,” said Downey, just ten days before Murray starts the defence of his Wimbledon crown. “With Andy’s approval using him in a way that will really help young prospects. There’s got to be a strategy behind it: what’s the best way to use a powerful brand like Andy Murray. We’ve got to use him in a way to make a real difference. And if I was Andy Murray I would want to know that too.”
Downey replaced Roger Draper at the LTA helm in January, appointing renowned coach Bob Brett as director of player development yesterday. The former Tennis Canada president has overseen a three per cent hike in participation figures, confirmed on Thursday by Sport England, crucial to the LTA’s funding.
Sport England threatened the LTA’s full £17.3 million grassroots funding allocation after disappointing participation numbers released in 2013.
Despite tentative progress, Downey admits the LTA must still show marked improvement – revealing he has held talks with Murray’s entourage about the 27-year-old actively backing the drive.
“Andy’s had his own commitments with surgery and finding a new coach, but I also believe that he’s not going to go away,” said Downey. “He’s like a Highland Spring or a Coca-Cola. I haven’t had a discussion with Andy about that, I’ve raised it with his agent. It’s about tennis in Britain, not about promoting the LTA.”
The LTA have refused to rule out selecting Aljaz Bedene for British Davis Cup action should the Slovenian complete his bid for UK citizenship.
The 24-year-old has lived in England for six years, but has represented Slovenia in Davis Cup action three times.
British player Dan Evans has already admitted he does not think Bedene should be able to switch nationality, having been “capped” for another country. The LTA’s head of men’s tennis and Davis Cup captain Leon Smith said each case will be judged on its own merits.
“Current ITF (International Tennis Federation) regulations will allow players to switch nationality, but that’s just what’s out there,” said Smith. “We had it with Johanna Konta. Aljaz has already played Davis Cup. The big thing with Aljaz is it’s not an option just now. It’s a long road for him to go down to get citizenship. If he does receive citizenship, and becomes eligible, then it will be a discussion from that moment onwards. I can’t sit here and say if we would pick him or otherwise.
“We’ve got a very strong team unit that has allowed us to progress, and I certainly wouldn’t look to rock that. But if we felt it was in the best interests we’d certainly look at it. There will probably be a bunch of different opinions across the team. I can’t tell because it’s not live.”