Blake offers vision of game's life after Murray

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The Independent Online

Aged 18, Blake is just about old enough to sell alcohol, but it was too much to ask him to run the last-chance saloon. On the other hand, he is three months older than Andy Murray, who was the subject of a conversation I overheard yesterday morning in a coffee shop, one middle-aged Englishwoman in a floral-print dress saying to another, with no trace of irony: "I do hope the tennis people can find another Murray."

The burden of British expectation, having shifted from Tim Henman's shoulders to Murray's, has already moved to the next level: no sooner has Murray become the next Henman than folk are wondering who will be the next Murray. The question would be funny if it weren't so profoundly dispiriting.

And it is dispiriting in part because of the answer: there is nobody else. At least nobody about whom the mandarins of the Lawn Tennis Association are rubbing their hands with glee.

But David Felgate, the LTA's performance director, is not too unhappy. "There is the fast-track type of young tennis player," he said, "and there are those who develop more slowly. OK, there's no Maria Sharapova out there, who's going to take the world by storm. But you should also bear in mind that, while Andy is a fast-track player, Tim wasn't. He lost 6-1, 6-0 in the first round of the juniors in 1992.

"Plenty of juniors do well and go on to do nothing. And some do nothing, then go on to do well. Most male players develop between 18 and 21, and the girls between 16 and 19. So it is often too early to judge them as juniors. Miles Kasiri, who reached the final here last year, has had a tough time since. Jamie Baker, who got to the quarter-finals, is slowly climbing the rankings. Frankly, I am more concerned with the state of the senior game, with only Tim and Greg [Rusedski] in the top 100, and no women."

It irritates Felgate that the perennial question – whither British tennis? – is only asked during the Wimbledon fortnight. And that it is asked more forcefully when there is not a major football tournament going on (when there are more column inches to fill).

It is a reasonable criticism of the Fourth Estate. But it is also a reasonable question, whenever or however it is posed. As for young Blake, he at least came off Court No 14 yesterday reiterating his ambition to win Wimbledon one day. That he did so in an Australian accent, having lived Down Under since the age of eight, is neither here nor there.

"I feel British," he insisted. Had Murray's run inspired him? "Not particularly," he said.

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