Annacone told to start producing British 'warriors'

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The Independent Online

Roger Draper, the Lawn Tennis Association's chief executive, believes that the British game needs more "warriors" to end its losing mentality. The LTA yesterday announced their new "Tennis Leadership Team" with Tim Henman's coach, Paul Annacone, appointed head coach of men's tennis.

Annacone will continue to work with Henman, but will dedicate 20 weeks of the year to his new post alongside the former Davis Cup captain Paul Hutchins, who has been appointed head of men's tennis.

The Belgian Carl Maes, a former coach to Kim Clijsters, takes the corresponding role in the women's game and will be supported by head coach Nigel Sears, a former coach to Daniela Hantuchova, Amanda Coetzer and Barbara Schett. The new personnel will be in place for the move to the National Tennis Centre in 2007 and Draper acknowledges they will be under pressure to produce results.

"Clearly we are going to be judged on three things; the number of players in the top 100 in the world, the number of players between the ages of 12 and 18 on track to get into the top 100, and the biggest challenge we have is increasing dramatically the number of juniors that are actually competing," Draper said. "We have a lot of people playing tennis, but not many of them are actually competing on a week in, week out basis. That's why the French and Argentinians have been successful because every weekend they've got thousands of people competing.

"We've got endless coaching hours, but at the end of the day we want more warriors who, right from the age of seven, eight, nine or 10 are competing on a regular basis. Maybe that's not been a very British thing to do, but there's only one alternative to winning and we've been doing far too much of that over the last 20 years."

Annacone's family commitments ultimately ruled him out of contention for the position of head of men's tennis, but Draper was still happy with his new team.

"It's horses for courses," he said. "We wouldn't put Brad Gilbert working with our 10, 11 or 12-year-olds, Brad's good at working with Andy Murray. Paul Hutchins looking at the organisation and systems and Paul Annacone looking at the players' programmes is a good combination."

Henman gave his seal of approval, saying: "I have thoroughly enjoyed the last three years or so that Paul and I have worked together. He's not one of these guys that needs to raise his voice to make a point. But he has a tremendous knowledge of the game and I think appointing him is a positive move by the LTA."

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