Dynamic Draper takes on new challenge at LTA

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The Independent Online

The changing of the guard in British tennis is extending beyond the rapid emergence of Andy Murray as the country's leading player. Roger Draper, the chief executive of Sport England, is moving to the same post at the Lawn Tennis Association in succession to John Crowther, who is stepping down after nine years.

Draper, 36, is regarded as one of Britain's brightest and most dynamic administrators. An accomplished tennis and rugby league player who graduated from Loughborough University, he worked in rugby league before spending three and a half years as director of development at the LTA. He joined Sport England four years ago as chief operating officer and has been chief executive for the last three years, seeing through a comprehensive modernisation programme.

The LTA presents a major challenge as the organisation has been under frequent fire in recent years over the country's shortage of world-class players, particularly women. Draper also arrives at a time of significant change, with the LTA selling its Queen's Club home and investing high hopes and high sums in its new national tennis centre at Roehampton.

Draper's appointment follows the arrival of a progressive new president of the LTA, Stuart Smith, while Wimbledon also has a new chief executive, Ian Ritchie, following the retirement of Chris Gorringe. Stephen Baddeley, Sport England's director of sport, has been appointed interim chief executive and accounting officer.

Three years can be a long time in tennis and during Martina Hingis' spell away from the game a new generation of players has emerged. Sania Mirza, a hard-hitting 19-year-old from India, provided the latest test for the Swiss, who won a hard-fought contest 6-3, 7-5 in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open last night.

Mirza announced her arrival by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova, the former US Open champion, here last year and is now ranked No 36 in the world. She received noisy support from a large Indian contingent in the crowd.

Hingis, however, proved on her return in Australia last month that she has lost none of her guile and precision. Mirza hit some fine crosscourt winners with her booming forehand, but when the rallies lengthened it was usually Hingis who found the winning shot.

Martina Navratilova's appearance in the doubles was brief. The 49-year-old and her partner, South Africa's Liezel Huber, lost in straight sets to Jelena Jankovic and Na Li.

* Arvind Parmar beat Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan in the first round of the Rotterdam Open. The British No 5 won 7-6, 5-7, 7-6 for his first ATP tour win since June 2004. He joins Greg Rusedski in the second round, while Tim Henman faces Thomas Johansson today.