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Post Info TOPIC: Marcus Willis


Intermediate Club Player

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RE: Marcus Willis


chavkev wrote:
Mark1968 wrote:
Coup Droit wrote:

I don't think so.

I know the state of French tennis very well and very often the finalists are not French.

In the last one, it was a Belgian and an Italian, for instance.

It is not a sad reflection on the state of French tennis.

And more futures/challengers are not the answer if you don't have the level. The way to get the level is to have a dynamic club scene. Being the best club player will lead to the other. It's a question of having a sensible business model for the future. Not just patching over the problems of the moment.


 If only it were that simple CD.  You forget we live in a country controlled by the PC brigade where everyone is considered equal.  I know through my young family members that competition is largely discouraged amongst youngsters in schools ( where many first pick up a racket) and even at some sports clubs.  When kids get trophies for turning up on time or for finishing 37th in the cross country we've got no chance.   Apparently it's the taking part that counts not winning.  Things need to change.


 I must confess that an element of that strikes a chord with me.  I was quite a sickly child, so once I got well and was able to take part in sport I was a very competitive and I must say annoying child.  One year I won every event in the school sports day and the next year it was changed into some team-building event so that there were no winners or losers.  I'm not sure what lesson they were trying to teach us as I repeatedly tripped over my bottom lip for the entire event.


 Outstanding post Chavkev, put in far better words than I could muster, your experience is a perfect example of what I meant.  



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Tennis legend

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We may not exactly agree on the underlying GB environment and not agree on possible solutions, but at least we seem agreed about a difficult environment in this country for tennis players to come through.

Maybe rather an anomaly then to relatively clobber these who do become some of our best players, but not seen to have overall 'made it'.

Personally I watch out for all our leading players ( and that encompasses world top 1000 and beyond plus many juniors ). I have my favourites ( I recall someone strangely being called out for not supporting players equally ), but recognise that all have achieved in tennis and I want to see them do well.

I do though worry about over concentration ( here I mean from our tennis authorities ) on producing / supporting supposed potential top 100 players with a danger of disillusioning lower ranked players, the level that many younger players could first imagine themselves attaining before possibly achieving better.

If there was much more tennis infrastructure in this country and more of a foreseeable long time career within tennis it would be so much better. Moving that way is a long term process, but no reason not to be trying.



-- Edited by indiana on Sunday 6th of November 2016 01:20:33 PM

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Challenger level

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There seem to be 2 different things under discussion here - how long the LTA should support players before they have a breakthrough moment;  and whether players who look like that breakthrough is never coming are worthy of our support.

Regarding the 2nd point, that is what this forum is all about, debating and supporting British players at all levels.  For myself, I love tennis and enjoy following the fortunes of those who hail from these shores, whether they are a current star, potential future star, or those who in my opinion are never really going to achieve lift-off.  Every little success they have at whatever level fills me with joy even if I know for a lot of them it is a doomed enterprise in the long run.  And to be honest, the more that try their hand or keep playing when most of us would have thrown in the towel, the better the health of tennis in this country.  They all help pull up those that are just behind them.

Should they be funded?  Well, I think the LTA has wasted a lot of money on its previous funding schemes.  Mainly by picking a few and throwing the world at them.  Is this the fault of the players?  Not really, who would not take support from a national association that seemed to think you could achieve highly in your sport.  Personally, I feel we should have more junior ITFs and adult futures.  Gives people a chance to test the waters or show their skills.  And as for funding, I think LTA staff should get out and about and watch matches (of all players, not just those already on the gravy train) and offer support, advice, training and competing opportunities not necessarily just funding but based on what they actually see.  Support shouldn't be age linked (within reason) IMO but should be linked to speed of progress.  A player who tries futures at 16 may take 2 or 3 years to really make headway.  A player who starts at 18 should be going deep regularly within a year.  Same for players leaving college.  But just because a player turns out not to be good enough in the long run for financial support or a meaningful career doesn't mean they won't have my support and good wishes.



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Tennis legend

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"The French superstars are not the product of a Utopian club system, they are in the case of Tsonga and Monfils the sons of athletes migrating to France to play handball and football respectively and in the case of Gasquet the son of two tennis coaches; bar that happy accident he would have been enjoying life playing Rugby, probably to be fair at a decent level. It is not the product of indoor tennis factories, although that may help once you have identified the talent."


This is rather missing the point.

The question is why did the sons of athletes migrating to France to play handball and football choose to play tennis? And how come Gasquet (and SO SO many others) are the offspring of tennis coaches?

Britain has many top athletes migrating to Britain to play top level sport. Indeed, we have many top level sportsman who did not migrate to Britain. But their children (generally) do not play tennis.

The reason young Tsonga and Monfils chose tennis was because there was an excellent club system to get going as a kiddie (cheap, excellent lessons, local, available to all), with top county, regional and national input later on (no individual cash funding, just free group training, and then free individual training, and then free academies for full-time training).

And of course the kids of tennis coaches are far more likely to become top tennis players. The percentage in France is huge. Having a parent who can coach well is the cheapest, most cost effective way of producing new young potential tennis stars. It's what the french system is based on.

That's the whole point of my 'family connections' thread and my whole rant about the lack of a tennis industry in GB.

Because there simply aren't very many coaches in Britain (rightly so, we don't need many, there aren't enough people playing). More importantly, there aren't enough people playing to a decent level (LTA 6 or so) who can coach their kids properly even without a coaching certificate.

So it's no accident at all.

And that's why the LTA should not just target a few players. It's too linear, no spin-off benefits. But target competitive club tennis, with LTA in-put, and create a whole industry of tennis that will then feed on itself, with less and less LTA input needed.

So you need more people playing, more clubs, who need more coaches, who then have children, who then become tennis players.

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"The French superstars are not the product of a Utopian club system, they are in the case of Tsonga and Monfils the sons of athletes migrating to France to play handball and football respectively and in the case of Gasquet the son of two tennis coaches; bar that happy accident he would have been enjoying life playing Rugby, probably to be fair at a decent level. It is not the product of indoor tennis factories, although that may help once you have identified the talent."


This is rather missing the point.

The question is why did the sons of athletes migrating to France to play handball and football choose to play tennis? And how come Gasquet (and SO SO many others) are the offspring of tennis coaches?

Britain has many top athletes migrating to Britain to play top level sport. Indeed, we have many top level sportsman who did not migrate to Britain. But their children (generally) do not play tennis.

The reason young Tsonga and Monfils chose tennis was because there was an excellent club system to get going as a kiddie (cheap, excellent lessons, local, available to all), with top county, regional and national input later on (no individual cash funding, just free group training, and then free individual training, and then free academies for full-time training).

And of course the kids of tennis coaches are far more likely to become top tennis players. The percentage in France is huge. Having a parent who can coach well is the cheapest, most cost effective way of producing new young potential tennis stars. It's what the french system is based on.

That's the whole point of my 'family connections' thread and my whole rant about the lack of a tennis industry in GB.

Because there simply aren't very many coaches in Britain (rightly so, we don't need many, there aren't enough people playing). More importantly, there aren't enough people playing to a decent level (LTA 6 or so) who can coach their kids properly even without a coaching certificate.

So it's no accident at all.

And that's why the LTA should not just target a few players. It's too linear, no spin-off benefits. But target competitive club tennis, with LTA in-put, and create a whole industry of tennis that will then feed on itself, with less and less LTA input needed.

So you need more people playing, more clubs, who need more coaches, who then have children, who then become tennis players.

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Grand Slam Champion

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Much though I love the general politeness of the forum I would hate to see Vandy stop posting I am a big fan of inclusion we need one or two really sick puppies to keep us on our toes.

The technical training available in the UK for those that can afford it is good enough to produce top 100 juniors year on year, tennis is a minority sport for which intense technical training is essential. The cost implications limit it to the middle class. Our main problem is the lack of athletically gifted children who get the opportunity to play tennis. The French superstars are not the product of a Utopian club system, they are in the case of Tsonga and Monfils the sons of athletes migrating to France to play handball and football respectively and in the case of Gasquet the son of two tennis coaches; bar that happy accident he would have been enjoying life playing Rugby, probably to be fair at a decent level. It is not the product of indoor tennis factories, although that may help once you have identified the talent.

The best athletes in the UK are in football academies by the time they are 10, unless they go to schools that actively suppress it or have a family enshrined in another sport. Like golf, tennis coaches expect to get paid, there is no culture of thousands of qualified amateur football coaches spending Sunday mornings coaching tens of thousands of children the basics of football.

We are very lucky in that we have Wimbledon an annual festival of tennis broadcast free to air, saturation coverage two weeks a year. Hockey would kill for that exposure and have just negotiated a deal with BT Sport in a desperate attempt to get some complete coverage of matches. Tennis needs to focus on optimising that festival creating a second facet that makes it child friendly and accessible, obviously it cannot all fit into the main event but road to Wimbledon should be for 8,9 and 10 year olds and run around qualifying as a focus for coaches in primary schools, starting from winter half terms with free coaching in the schools through Easter and spring half term. Hopefully coaches can then guidevkids into summer camps in clubs. More strategic educational alliances then need to be created that keep children's options open and facilitate intensive training ideally on site for children with the potential to become professionals.

The LTA should fund players full time who have a junior pedigree that gives them a realistic chance of being top 200 by the time they are 20, they should also support elite college players with a rank of under 300 who want to drop out early to join the main tour. Outside that if a player can self fund to fulfil their dream good luck to them. In particular good luck to Marcus who through his own talent has created opportunities to compete again this year, there is no question he is talented enough to make a living in the game, he is an absolute joy to watch and support every time I see Sandgrens name on the challenger tour it makes me smile, for Marcus it is about choices not talent and how he chooses to optimises it.



-- Edited by Oakland2002 on Sunday 6th of November 2016 08:46:42 AM

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I thing there is an issue of chicken and egg, I understand your enthusiasm for the French infrastructure but it isn't going to happen here overnight and it is completely unrealistic to expect any changes made now to have an impact in the next 20 years if ever. There are examples of local good practice that mimic it but nationally it's a pipe dream.

I agree it sucks in the odd now middle class and relatively or indeed extremely affluent offspring of ex sportsman. My point is the technical training is good enough to get juniors to a level where going pro crosses their mind but it's for the most part the wrong kids. Tennis is fighting for athletic scraps and has the odd happy accident. At the moment the work has to be done between ages 7 -11 and in schools.

The athletes are here, my daughters grass roots football club consists of for the most part of girls who are athletes and migrated to find others with similar interests half play up a year with ease, 60-70 % would compete and beat girls of a similar age in the local elite regional tennis academy. By the time they turn 14 that number will dwindle, this raw talent, train once a week, match on Sunday They are the daughters of parents who live on a cash economy, £30 a month all in, at least two have brothers in professional football academies, tattoos, fags and foul language (closely monitored and mitigated as best I can within the confines of keeping my teeth) hug the touch line. Most importantly the girls have a great time and made friendships through sport they would others never have had.

Only 2 of this group have ever touched a tennis racket in a meaningful way. The athletes are there but does the LTA and do tennis clubs in general really want them?

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We don't fundamentally disagree.

The lack of penetration into the general masses in a major problem here. And the horror of competitive sport does kids a huge disservice. As well as schools shying away from sport (too expensive, too many health and safety problems), selling off playing fields, not enough staff prepared to volunteer, etc, etc, etc,

But I don't think having a 20 year plan is a problem (and it's not 100% the LTA's fault, either)

In France, tennis was an elite sport in the early 1980s.

Then Noah won Roland Garros and people saw that a normal 'cool dude' guy could win and the government funneled a huge amount of its sport budget to tennis.

The result was that every single tiny commune, rural or within a city, applied for and received a grant and built a municipal tennis court (if not two). As such, everyone started playing, clubs became dynamic, the FFT set up leagues etc. tons of people signed up for the coaching courses, and bit by bit tennis took off.

Things don't happen overnight, you need a long-term plan that isn't simply 'let's get a couple of top 100 players'.

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Futures level

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And the biggest joke on here, is the fact that yet, while 80% of you cannot handle my hard truths about tennis, I have created yet a great debate which you have taken part in.


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Grand Slam Champion

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Thank you for your contributions they will be sorely missed.

Yes this is a forum for debate and occasionally playing the devils advocate is an easy way of provoking it, the consensus view is you are welcome to participate, I can only apologise that you appear upset by the polite and reasoned arguments made.



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In reference to Mr Noah, he is again the son of a professional footballer who had returned to Cameroon where his talent was identified and then parachuted back into the French tennis system. His son also an elite athlete and had every tennis opportunity available to excel, but as he is just that, an elite athlete in every sense, he is now treading the boards of the NBA.

And s*** Trump has just won. Vandenburg for priminister!

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That's my exact point. And Ali Collins is the daughter of a professional footballer. And young star of Ireland, Carr, is also the son of a professional footballer.

It's obvious that sporting genes and sporting interest run in families.

But, as you say, that sporting talent and application can go down any number of sporting paths.

It's because of the excellent club structure and the extra FFT help at a very local level that so many of the French versions go down the tennis path.

It's up to the LTA to try and make the same thing happen.

And, oh yes, s*** squared - Trump !!!

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County player

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Coup Droit wrote:

That's my exact point. And Ali Collins is the daughter of a professional footballer. And young star of Ireland, Carr, is also the son of a professional footballer.

It's obvious that sporting genes and sporting interest run in families.

But, as you say, that sporting talent and application can go down any number of sporting paths.

It's because of the excellent club structure and the extra FFT help at a very local level that so many of the French versions go down the tennis path.

It's up to the LTA to try and make the same thing happen.

And, oh yes, s*** squared - Trump !!!


CD, comparing British and French clubs, what would you say were the major differences between clubs and why is the FFT so much more effective at a local level? 

After my own experience playing seniors tennis at a German club (and the indoor courts around), I couldn't face the prospect of rejoining a club here and getting viewed as playing material for the local midweek mixed doubles league. The atmosphere, engagement, organisation - call it what you will - were like chalk and cheese.  

There have to be both reason and motivation to play no matter who you are. For me, it was the training and tournament competition: that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to get on court and smash someone (but rarely did!). For someone else, it could be a quite different motivation. In that sense,  Mark and CDs' view are complementary rather than opposed. Taking CD's point, there is no properly structured business of tennis as far as the general population goes. The numbers of people engaged in competitive tennis are minimal and so the structure itself has become largely moribund. This is equally manifested at quasi professional level too, evidenced by the dearth, if not quite death, of futures and challengers.

For all the good it does, the LTA might just as well hand the Davis Cup responsibility back to the AELTC and shut itself down. Most of its employees are only working for the benefit of Wimbledon anyway. Tennis here is about constructing a £100 million roof for the benefit of professionals, not about a prestigious, truly national, club competition in which overseas players would queue up to come and play here rather than us going there. And why aren't the NCL competition finals played at Wimbledon?

As for paying professional aspirants to live the dream with their world ranking of 400, Vandenburg's rude but amusing, 'generation fail' is neatly apposite in my view. Derogatory perhaps, but it does sum up the consequences of that approach. Wasn't the whole of Bogdanovic's family living off his LTA money at one point? Or is that pure myth.



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Eddie, just want to start off with re-stating that there are TONS of things that stink in France (the teaching of classical music, the Civil Service, employment law.......). So this is no lovefest with France.
But it is true that tennis just works.

From a functional point of view, the tennis works is that both sides need each other.

The tennis clubs need the FFT and the local sport councils (city and regional) in order to operate. SOmetimes it's money. Usually it's money in kind. Clubs may be on council land and not get charged rent. Or get free utilities. Or get a free groundsman/clubhouse staff. (Understanding the full French tax/subsidy system is a PhD, just to get to basic level).
The main club I was at (about 350 members) had turnover of about £20k i.e. from membership dues. And a bit of profit from events (but not much). But had operating expenses of about £40k. This was (basically) picked up by the regional sports council. The FFT also chipped in a like-for-like amount for children's licences (can't remember how much that came to but not huge, 1k tops) and was there for some capital projects. So the clubs need the authorities.

And the councils and FFT need the clubs. Their kudos comes from numbers and participation. The FFT is well-regarded by government because it is the second most important sports federation in France (behind football). And the councils need to show high numbers/events/success in order to get money from the government. So clubs need to have teams, events, members to get funding and the funders needs to fund them to have teams, events, members to get funding themselves. It's all a circle.

I don;t know how to take the benefits of the system and transplant them but my 'personal narrative', Eddie, is just like yours.

Fifteen years at French clubs. Which have quite pleasant social sides (clubhouse with bar, café, resturant that serves good three-course proper lunch for 10 euros, bingo evenings, football on large screen evenings, doubles days, wine tasting evenings etc. etc.).

But what I wanted was to play tennis. Competitively. Running around like a middle-aged rabbit, bunting the ball back, annoying the opponent, hitting one or two beautiful backhands down the line that would make me smile all day (and forget the zillions of muffed shots), ending up in a pool on the court and - hopefully - having squeaked the win from someone who basically played better than me.

The club where I was allowed me to do this - three different team events in the year (I was only team three or two, at most), with about 5 matches per event. And access to as many individual money tournaments as I could manage. Plus county championships (age category, open, ranking category).

When I came to England, there was nothing - lots of tennis courts but no clubs (OK, it's London), no competition, no nothing. Even looking out to various suburbs, still no clubs that offered anything like I was looking for. So I gave up. And only play when I go back.



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That's interesting. My knowledge of the overall administration of German team tennis is restricted. On a playing level though, it's a lively set-up with plenty of overseas players providing skill and interest, particularly from eastern Europe as you might imagine. The cost of running teams within clubs is often met by wealthy individuals. At ours, I was told our sponsor supported three seniors teams to the tune of about 20,000 euros a year.  We also had players with respectable ATP rankings in our open and over 35 teams who presumably had their own separate arrangements with the club. Imagine a hundred or more A1 Pharmaceuticals doing that here on a grand scale!

Surprisingly to me, the LTA seem to think they finally have a tennis model here that warrants TV advertising support:-

http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/lta-moves-away-middle-class-image-tennis-first-brand-campaign/1395667#

I don't wish to keep harping on and on about it, but I just don't see the point of this. In my view the British tennis "product" just isn't there and a TV campaign will produce precisely nothing. It's a sham basically and I'm an eagle-eyed advertising man. It'll serve only to make LTA jobsworths feel good while their agency rips them off. Park tennis, an historic bastion of the British game (to the point of once having its own governing body), is a pale shadow of its earlier life and there aren't nearly enough really good tennis clubs around. Like I said, the tennis model in this country is Wimbledon, Wimbledon, Wimbledon. The money and concentration goes on that and the shoulder events around the grass season. Everything else comes a distant fifth. Wimbledon and the LTA, collectively, need to give their brains a good racking. More importantly still perhaps, get out and talk to the coaches.





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