He holds the torch for British tennis and certainly men’s tennis. But with the money being pumped into grass roots tennis, this could soon change. The opening of the National Tennis Centre in London in 2007 marked a new era for British tennis.
Indeed it was built in response to heavy criticism from the Lawn Tennis Association who were highly critical of Britain’s failure to produce regular world class tennis talent. And it would seem that the LTA are already reaping the rewards.
Laura Robson proved yesterday what genuine tennis talent she is, pushing former world number five, Daniela Hantuchova, in their first round tie at Wimbledon. Robson’s furious hitting and aggressive serving shook the former Wimbledon quarter finalist as she slumped to a 2-6 deficit in the first set.
Unfortunately for the 15-year-old, who claimed the girl’s singles title at Wimbledon last year, eventually fell to the tenacious Slovakian. Yet Hantuchova had to call upon all her experience to overcome Robson who has only just completed her GSCE’s exams.
Despite the disappointing end to the match, eventually losing 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, there are a lot of positives to be taken out of the match. Indeed looking 12 months since she was named the ‘Queen of Wimbledon’ by the British media, she has entered the WTA tour and claimed her first International Tennis Federation title.
At the tender age of the 14 years and 9 months it proved a remarkable achievement. The left-handed player has declared her dominant serve as her main asset which allowed her to dominant her fellow juniors. Her critics have lamented her ‘poor lateral movement’. And even former world number one, Ana Ivanovic, has had her say on Robson. She has quoted as remarking that Robson “hits the ball really, really hard”.
Given time, Robson has the attributes to develop into a world class player. Meanwhile a fellow young starlet of ladies tennis is 16-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito, who has made the headlines not just for her tennis.
The Portuguese star, who defeated Robson 6-4 2-6 10-6 in a warm up tournament in Liverpool, yesterday proceeded into round two at SW19. Defeating Klara Zakopalova in straight sets she noisily grunted her way to victory.
Of course, she is not the sole culprit of a high pitched shriek throughout a rally in women’s tennis, with the likes of Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova famous for their grunting.
Yet is it really necessary? Is it a yell of determination or a tactical ploy to disturb opposition? Decide for yourself!
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BIOGRAPHY: Eric Bailly