Hagelauer handed task of honing talent as Lewis goes

Patrice Hagelauer, who used to coach Yannick Noah, was yesterday put in charge of the storm-tossed ark known as the British tennis training department. It remains to be seen whether young players will arrive two by two with the ability and determination to succeed Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski.

Patrice Hagelauer, who used to coach Yannick Noah, was yesterday put in charge of the storm-tossed ark known as the British tennis training department. It remains to be seen whether young players will arrive two by two with the ability and determination to succeed Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski.

The irony of Hagelauer's promotion is that his duties effectively embrace those of Richard Lewis, who last year recommended the Frenchman to the Lawn Tennis Association to work under him in the role of performance director and yesterday surrendered his job as the LTA's director of tennis. Hagelauer, not Lewis, will now report directly to John Crowther, the chief executive.

Although last weekend's Davis Cup defeat by Ecuador at Wimbledon, which relegated Britain from the World Group, was the catalyst for Lewis's "mutual" parting from the national governing body, he has been subjected to criticism from inside and outside the LTA for several years.

"I had made up my mind to go on Saturday morning when I heard Greg [Rusedski] wasn't playing doubles and how it was going to be a dog-fight to win a tight tie," Lewis said. "When I met John [Crowther] on Monday I found he had the same feeling. This is certainly not the way I would have chosen to go but I think the time is ripe from a personal point of view."

Crowther, confirming that Lewis would not be dealt another hand at a media conference held in the card room at Queen's Club, cited the press as jokers in the pack. "I am very sorry to see Richard go," Crowther said. "Richard would continue to be an agenda item in the media and this continued press on the LTA would not act in the best interests of British tennis."

Asked if the LTA had been pushed into action by Henman's comments that Hagelauer alone should be given carte blanche to run the training department, Crowther said: "The LTA Board considered all reasons. Tim Henman's statement was a reason, but certainly not the principle reason."

Hagelauer, 52, who is running his performance plan on a £5m per year budget, said: "It seems to me in this country there is a national sport, which is criticism, and it is probably one of the reasons why we are not successful. We have to give confidence to players, coaches and the LTA because we are running tennis in this country, and if we allow criticism all the time we will never be able to build confidence. I don't know any other way to build players.

"What is happening is a very important lesson for me. I have not been through this type of experience before. If we want success in British tennis we have to be positive. If we are negative we have a problem."

He said he worked closely with Lewis on changing the sport. "I have been doing the same in France, and it took years. Nobody realises the amount of work which has been done. I hope people will understand that without him [Lewis] it would have been very difficult. "

Lewis, who played in the 1970s when the rest of the world made staggering progress after the advent of open tennis while the British game continued in its old ways, said: "We are running very fast to stand still. So much of what the LTA's doing is right. And I also don't think it's just the LTA's job to produce players for the game. Everybody's got to pull together. People who are not playing tennis are missing out on something fantastic."

LIFE AND TENNIS TIMES OF RICHARD LEWIS

Born: London, 12 December 1954

Highest world ranking: 68 (competed on the world circuit for 13 years, defeating 30 players ranked in the top 30, including Ilie Nastase, Tom Okker, Tony Roche and Brian Teacher)

Highest British ranking: 2 in 1982 (Top 12 from 1975 to 1985)

Davis Cup: Represented Britain 1977-1981, and played in every match in the team that reached the semi-finals in 1981.

Coaching: Trainer for Wightman Cup team (1983-84) and Federation Cup team (1985). Personal coach to Kathy Jordan, Marcella Mesker and Sara Gomer, and worked with Hana Mandlikova when she won the United States Open in 1985.

Administration: Board member of the Association of Tennis Profesionals for four years; treasurer for two years. Appointed LTA men's 18 and under national training director in 1987. Appointed LTA director of national training in 1990, director of national training and coaching in 1995, director of international and professional tennis in 1997, director of tennis in 1998. Manager of British Olympic tennis team in Barcelona in 1992 and in Atlanta in 1996, where Tim Henman and Neil Broad won the men's doubles silver medal.

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