LTA says Bogdanovic an inspiration to others

LAWN Tennis Association player director Steven Martens believes more players must be encouraged to stay in the sport for longer if the state of the men's game in Britain is to improve.

Martens was asked to carry out a review by LTA chief executive Roger Draper following the humiliating Davis Cup defeat by Lithuania last month.

And he has now revealed the first results of that review, which include the appointment of Andy Murray's former coach Leon Smith as Davis Cup captain and head of men's tennis.

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While the women's game has shown a general upward trend, the men have been going backwards, with only Murray and Alex Bogdanovic now ranked in the world's top 250.

Bogdanovic has become something of a byword for the failings in British tennis – a talented youngster of whom great things were expected but who has failed to live up to expectations.

Seven consecutive singles defeats in the Davis Cup saw the 25-year-old ostracised by former captain John Lloyd, although Smith insists the door is now open, while the LTA indicated he would no longer be considered for a Wimbledon wild card. But Martens singled out Bogdanovic as something to aspire to.

The Belgian has identified two trends: British players giving up the game in their early 20s and the age at which players reach their peak increasing. And he believes it is this that must be addressed.

Martens said: "How come we don't have more men who are of the age of Boggo still playing? You can't look back one, two, three years – you can almost look back four, five, six years. What happened over that period of time?"

He continued: "The ages that people get into the top 100 are getting older and older. The average age of players is continuously moving up. It's almost 27 now.

"I think there are around ten guys in the top 100 over 30, so it takes longer and longer before you get the younger players (coming through)."

Martens believes the lack of financial rewards on the British Tour or at smaller ITF events mean coaching is a more attractive alternative for players if they do not make rapid strides. So he is proposing rewarding players for wins to allow them to keep playing while also ensuring they have low-cost facilities to train at and coaches to support them.

He continued: "If you make that transition from a junior player, it may take another three, four, five, six years before you financially become independent.

"For many people, that becomes a very long journey. If we as a governing body are not supporting them directly, there are no sponsors around to support them, then they go into coaching because it's a more safe alternative."