Nearly six months into his job as the Lawn Tennis Association’s chief executive, Michael Downey admitted here yesterday that “we are not getting the results as a nation that we should be getting”.
The Canadian, who replaced Roger Draper at the start of the year, has appointed the veteran coach Bob Brett as the governing body’s new “director of player development” and believes the 60-year-old Australian can help turn around the country’s tennis fortunes.
“Britain hasn’t had the consistent success you would expect of a nation that has a Grand Slam tournament,” Downey said. “There is too much of a gap between Andy Murray and the next players in the world rankings.”
Brett, who coached former Wimbledon winners Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic, as well as the current world No26 Marin Cilic, was a consultant to Downey for seven years in the latter’s previous job with Tennis Canada.
Draper was criticised for hiring too many expensive foreign coaches but Downey insisted that the LTA had become more “cost conscious” and that Brett, who joins in September as a full-time member of staff, would be “great value for money”.
The Australian will be tasked with raising the standards of both the country’s leading players – male and female – and the coaches. “Bob Brett knows what it takes to succeed at the highest level,” Downey said. “He has learned in the trenches with the best and against the best.”
Downey talked about the need to include “mental toughness testing” in identifying young talent and said Brett would seek to “help kids to exceed expectations”. He added: “It’s about coming back to basics. He [Brett] said to me he thinks we have too many bells and whistles. It’s about attention to detail. He wants to make sure the players and coaches know what it takes to succeed.”
Murray is still the only British man ranked in the world’s top 100, while Heather Watson (world No 69) and Laura Robson (No 80) are the only women. There is also concern at the lack of British teenagers making their mark at junior level.
Although Downey did not want to make “grandiose statements about where we are going as a sport in this country”, he said: “The expectations of the public are huge. People in this country expect success.”
Downey said he wanted to use Murray’s success as a way of inspiring young players but admitted, 11 months after the Scot’s Wimbledon triumph, that he had not actually talked to him yet about doing so.
“We’re a little short of senior staff right now,” Downey said. “We also know that Andy has had his own priorities, [having] come off surgery.”
Murray’s conqueror here at the Aegon Championships, Radek Stepanek, yesterday moved to within one victory of his first appearance in a tour final for three years when he beat Kevin Anderson 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The 35-year-old Czech, who won the Legg Mason Tennis Classic title in Washington in 2011, will face Feliciano Lopez in today’s semi-final after the Spaniard beat the world No 6, Tomas Berdych, 6-4, 7-6.
Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov was handed a free passage into the last four when his opponent, Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, pulled out of their scheduled quarter-final after suffering a thigh injury playing in the doubles on Thursday evening.
Dimitrov now plays Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, the Australian Open champion, who beat Marinko Matosevic 7-5, 6-3.