Michael Downey expected to make big impact as new chief executive of the LTA
Milos Raonic backs his fellow Canadian to succeed
Milos Raonic believes that his fellow Canadian, Michael Downey, will make a big noise in every sense when he takes over as chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association next year. Raonic has known Downey, the head of Tennis Canada, ever since the world No 11's days as an emerging junior and has been grateful for his support, not least at Davis Cup ties.
Raonic, who led Canada to the Davis Cup semi-finals before losing to Serbia in Belgrade last month, said here on Thursday: "He gets loud with the fans at the Davis Cup. In Serbia he would be one of the voices you could hear. He wouldn't sit in the courtside seats. He'd be up in the crowd with the Canadian fans. You could hear his voice above everybody else's. He has a low, growelly voice and it stands out. Every single time you could pick it out.
"The first time I noticed it on court was in 2010, when I was playing in qualifying for the US Open. I could hear him all the time. He gets very involved emotionally because he wants you to do well. He's not just doing his job as a businessman. He really cares about the players and has a very good relationship with them. I think it means a lot personally to him that those players do well."
Raonic, who beat Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-3 here today to reach the semi-finals of the Rakuten Japan Open, believes that Canada's loss will be Britain's gain. Downey, who has a business background, has been a great success in his nine years with Tennis Canada. During his time in charge Canada have equalled their best ever showing in the Davis Cup, produced two junior Wimbledon champions and seen the number of people playing tennis in the country rise by 30 per cent.
"He came in as a businessman," Raonic said. "He understood what needed to be done. The best thing was that he surrounded himself with good people. From the start he didn't pretend that he knew everything about tennis. He made sure that he had top-notch professionals around him.
"He also took direct control. These guys he brought in would report to him directly, rather than to somebody underneath him. Ever since I started working at the national training centre, when I was 16 or 17, whenever my parents needed to see him, he would set up a meeting within two days. I think for a lot of people he will be a big loss emotionally. A lot of the players have had a personal relationship with Michael and will miss him."
As for the improvement in participation figures, Raonic said that Downey, who will replace the much-criticised Roger Draper at the LTA in January, had achieved results with actions rather than words.
"He has put lot of willpower and a lot of funding into the development side," Raonic said. "He was aware that the best way to advertise the sport was through success. He got to that point via the right approach. He's managed it very well - not only with sponsors and TV, but also with the players."
Raonic thinks Downey is a good choice for the LTA. "From what I understand, the resources he will have are significantly more, maybe 10 times more than he had at Tennis Canada. I think he'll be able to do a lot of good things with that sort of funding. He'll also find the right people to surround himself with."
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