Judy Murray wants more women to come through the ranks in Great Britain if they are to be considered a 'strong tennis nation'

The Fed Cup coach believes the "fun, lively personalities" of Laura Robson and Heather Watson can help encourage more women into the sport

British tennis needs more top-level women stars to be considered a "strong tennis nation", according to Fed Cup coach Judy Murray.

Murray is developing a tennis programme tailored around five to eight-year-old girls in a bid to boost Britain's elite-level talents in the women's game.

Wimbledon champion Andy Murray's mother believes Laura Robson and Heather Watson's "fun, lively personalities" can help encourage more girls into the sport.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has launched the Great British Tennis Weekend to allow free access to club and park courts across Britain.

The first of four free events will take place this weekend, and Judy Murray hopes she can develop new methods to guide greater numbers of young girls into tennis.

"At mini tennis level there are four times as many boys as girls that tend to come into the sport," Murray told Press Association Sport.

"So we have to look at what girls enjoy doing, what girls like, and maybe tailoring the sport to that more at entry level.

"Laura and Heather in particular are great role models for girls in sport but also girls in tennis specifically, because they are young, extremely good at their own sport, but also fun, lively personalities.

"There's lot of things we need to look at, female coaches is an issue, if you have more female coaches they understand the needs and feelings of little girls better, so more female coaches in my opinion that's a really important part of it too.

"Little girls are not so competitive, dance is a big thing for them, you go along with your friends irrespective of how good or otherwise you are and have fun.

"It's good exercise, it's music and it's lively.

"So we need to look at that, and look at the competition that surrounds girls and make it more appealing so that girls will enjoy it and ensure it's not too pressurised.

"We need to do that because if we don't grow the numbers we'll never become a really strong tennis nation.

"And we should be, because we're a Grand Slam nation, we've got a great tradition in tennis, and this is a great opportunity now and we're off to a really good start."

Britain's governing body, the LTA, is intent on capitalising on Andy Murray and Wimbledon fever to boost grassroots participation numbers.

Official figures returned a nine per cent drop in weekly participation numbers in tennis last year, and Judy Murray believes enticing more girls into the game can help the recruitment drive.

Murray is also intent on swelling the numbers of female stars at the top of Britain's ladder, with more than one eye on her role as Fed Cup boss.

"I'm very interested in us being able to win or be contenders for the Fed Cup in the next five years, but beyond that as well," she said.

"And for me it comes down to the numbers, it can't be about one player or two players, you've got to have a pool of them, and that's why I'm so keen to develop an initiative which is just a girls programme, to get girls aged five to eight into tennis.

"It's aimed to help them develop a social group that's all girls that prepares them for mini tennis, and they move into mini tennis with a social group, understanding the shots and the coordination.

"So it's a totally fun programme to be delivered by females, so hopefully it can knock two birds with one stone.

"It's about building a team environment for the girls, and we set up things like little four-on-four games, because that's more fun for them than just one-on-one.

"It's about understanding what little girls want, and adapting what you do to make it more fun for them, to keep them in the sport."

PA

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