Gilbert's mission to kickstart Murray
Lloyd calls for a hard man to take Britain's brightest hope to the very highest level
Sunday 09 July 2006
Having promised a new broom, the Lawn Tennis Association have taken on an earth-moving machine by inviting David Lloyd, the perennial scourge of their organisation, to work with them to find and develop youngsters.
Lloyd will be given a total of £500,000 over the next three years to help fund the scheme at the 16 David Lloyd Academies in Britain and others overseas, and having got his foot in the door Lloyd, typically, was enthusiastically proposing to redecorate the whole structure a few minutes after the launch of the scheme at Wimbledon on Thursday.
"I am excited, but it's only part of the cake. I still want to play a much bigger part in the LTA than that, and have told Roger Draper [the new chief executive] that I believe I am the person to do a job of restructuring that will still be there in 50 years' time. That's my business, restructuring companies, and I do it well, and to also know the game of tennis as well as I know it makes it very simple for me to do it."
For the moment, Lloyd will turn his energy, and plenty of his own money, into the project, and has already sounded out top-quality former players to join him as coaches. "I have had a great response from the coaches I want to use, people like Gene Mayer, Brian Gottfried, my brother John. Jimmy Connors wants to do some weeks, Mark Petchey wants to do some home-based weeks, which is great. You can't make it without that quality."
Asking Lloyd whether Andy Murray might perhaps have made even earlier progress in this country under the new plan touches a raw nerve. "Andy came from my club in Edinburgh, and his mother, Judy, worked for me. Ten years ago she and I made a presentation like this to [former LTA chief executive] John Crowther. All of the things I have suggested they do, they do years afterwards and then take the credit.
"Give Crowther his due, he was very keen, but it was the same week as Patrice Hagelauer had been appointed the LTA's performance director. If my scheme works you don't need him, so it was ditched. Now Roger Draper has reinvented it and it's coming out, so good."
Lloyd also has a clear vision of what he considers Murray needs to take him forward and welcomes the impending appointment of Brad Gilbert to the LTA, an announcement awaiting the end of Wimbledon, where Gilbert is commentating for the American sports channel ESPN. "Andy needs someone as tough as nails to take him to the next step, because he still has a question mark over his heart and his fitness. He needs to get over those questions.
"His match play is unbelievable. I liken him to Miloslav Mecir, the Slovak they called 'The Cat'. He can generate pace from nowhere, he sort of floats around the court, gets to the ball and you wonder, 'How the hell did he get to that?', because he doesn't look quick. But he gets there.
"Andy has the ability to play big points well but unfortunately he also tends to get tired when it matters. I don't know whether that's physical or mental, and I do think he gets a lot of injuries. Whether that's part of growing, who knows?
"It is no good saying he's only 19, you have to live in the present minute, and right now he needs a good coach. He needs Gilbert, but I don't think it's the LTA's job to pay for him. The way it was explained to me is that the LTA are going to employ Gilbert for 30 weeks a year or whatever, of which 10 weeks will be for them and for the other 20 weeks they will basically lease Brad to Murray, and Murray will pay for it. I go along with that.
"Murray will benefit enormously from him, and I do think he needs it. There is no doubt Andy will be top 20, but I am talking about really knocking on the door of every Grand Slam event. I was disappointed with his match against Marcos Baghdatis, I am not sure how much oomph was there and that's what I can't understand. Did he get out of bed the wrong way?
"My brother John was a bit like that and I used to think, 'Oh my God, I'm going to have to get to the side of the court and shout at him'."
The shouting is about to resume, and British tennis should be the beneficiary.
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