LTA hit back at Cash criticism

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The Independent Online

The Lawn Tennis Association have hit back at Pat Cash's claims that Roger Draper's "shocking" and "disgraceful" tenure at the head of the Britain's governing body is jeopardising the country's chances of developing future champions.

Cash, who won Wimbledon in 1987, claimed yesterday that Draper, who took the role of chief executive in 2006, should resign for what he sees as a lack of interest and investment in Britain's young tennis players.

The Australian was scathing in his criticism of Draper and the LTA, claiming that both had denied young and under-privileged youngsters the chance to get involved in the sport.

"It has been quite shocking how little they have put into people who can't afford to be at a lovely club and get kids to play at local parks," Cash blasted.

Britain's governing body turned the tables on the 45-year-old yesterday evening though by pointing to a number of figures, which they claim rubbish the Australian's accusations.

An LTA spokesman said: "Investment in grass roots is our priority.

"We are spending over £40million over five years in improving facilities.

"We have more than half a million people playing tennis in England alone.

"That number is growing and we are looking to increase that number further.

"We are four years into a 10-year project, so yes, this will take time, but we are already starting to see encouraging signs both in performance tennis and at grass roots level.

"The accusation is that we are not getting kids playing tennis but club membership among children has grown by 16% in the last three years."

Draper's hopes of getting more Britons into the top 100 are yet to materialise.

Andy Murray and Elena Baltacha sit inside that mark, with world number four Murray the only player likely to have a serious chance of winning a grand slam tournament this year.

Draper claimed last week that the future of British tennis was rosy under his leadership, a viewpoint which Cash strongly disagrees with.

"If the LTA think everything is all right they are insane," said Cash.

"Most experts, including myself, have been shocked by the way they have neglected the grass roots with the kids that have been starting picking up tennis racquets."

When asked whether he thought Draper should resign if Britain failed to perform well in the next few years, Cash replied: "I actually think Roger Draper should have gone years ago.

"He should have had the guts to say 'Look, I've under-performed. I'm embarrassed to have done so little' and leave.

"In any other company, any other business, they would say it's time for him to go.

"They are the laughing stock of the world as far as tennis associations of the world go."