No crisis at LTA despite loss of Nigel Sears, says Roger Draper

ROGER Draper insists the departure of head of women's tennis Nigel Sears does not signal a crisis point for the Lawn Tennis Association.

Sears, who is hugely well respected, will leave the governing body after four-and-a-half years at the end of July to coach former world No 1 Ana Ivanovic.

Women's tennis has been a notable - and critics would say rare - success story during the five-year tenure of Draper as chief executive at the LTA, with five players reaching the top 100 and two, Heather Watson and Laura Robson, winning junior grand slams.

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Sears, the father of Andy Murray's girlfriend Kim, becomes the latest high-profile figure to leave the organisation and his departure - announced yesterday - comes only six months after player-director Steven Martens announced his resignation, leaving a void at the top of the high-performance programme.

Draper, though, played down the impact, saying: "We're sad to lose Nigel because he's a great guy, a great coach and he's brought a lot. But people come and go and you move on. Nigel's left an unbelievable legacy to build on."

Although Draper was disappointed by the loss of Sears, it did not come as too much of a shock. "When we first had the conversation, Nigel said he was going to give me three good years and we've had four and a half really great years," said Draper. "He's left women's tennis in a much better place.

"Nigel's heart has always been in day-to-day coaching. It's a great opportunity for him. He wanted one last crack at the tour. We were always well aware of that - this isn't a huge surprise."

British No 1 Elena Baltacha praised Sears for his impact on the women's game in this country. The 27-year-old Scot said: "I'm really sorry to hear that we're losing Nigel but I'm sure he'll help Ana a lot. There's no doubt British women's tennis has improved out of sight since Nigel first came on board. I've learned a lot from Nigel and I'll always be grateful to him for that."