The Lawn Tennis Association advises the All England Club each year on which players should receive wild cards into the tournament, and its policy had been to put forward singles players with a ranking of 250 or higher. But chief executive Michael Downey and director of player development Bob Brett, both of whom joined the governing body last year, were known not to be fans of such a rigid criteria.
Both felt players should show more than an ability simply to remain at a certain level, and that will now be the case. An LTA spokeswoman said: “This year, in agreement with the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the LTA will not be using ATP and WTA rankings (250 for singles and 400 combined for doubles) as a basis for recommendation to the AELTC for main draw and qualifying wild cards at The Championships, 2015.
“This revised approach will enable the LTA to give consideration to attributes in addition to rankings when nominating those players who have the best chance of performing well in The Championships. These additional attributes will include attitude, professionalism, game development and recent form.”
Improved prize money at the grand slams has made wild cards increasingly valuable, with last year’s first-round losers taking home £27,000. Downey and Brett will have been well aware that the success of British wild cards at Wimbledon in recent years has been extremely limited. Last year, of eight players given main-draw wild cards, only Naomi Broady won her first-round match. Decisions on which players to recommend will be made by a panel consisting of Brett, head of men’s tennis Leon Smith and head of women’s tennis Iain Bates.
The new policy almost certainly means younger players will be favoured, while those who have received a number of wild cards in the past will have to do a lot to prove they deserve another free ticket.
• Dominic Thiem advanced to the second round of the World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over sixth-seeded Ernests Gulbis.
The 47th-ranked Thiem lost just four points on his first serve to claim his first victory this season.