New British academies to open in 2019 with aim of producing top-100 players

Kyle Edmund

Britain’s first national tennis academies will open in Stirling and Loughborough in 2019 in a bid to boost the number of players in the top 100.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is setting up the centres as the first major step in its 10-year project to improve British tennis.

Tim Henman and Sam Smith will join an LTA advisory group as part of the plan.

The former British number ones, plus Andy Murray’s coach Jamie Delgado, will advise on performance and strategy.

Britain has four players in the WTA and ATP top 100, with Kyle Edmund ranked highest at 18.

Under the programme, up to 32 players – aged between 11 and 18 – will be selected for a full-time residential programme, which promises a mainstream education at a cost of £5,000 per year.

There will also be 11 regional development centres aimed at improving 10-14-year-olds.

“The new performance strategy has been designed to help create future British tennis champions, who we hope will continue to inspire others to play, watch and enjoy the sport for generations to come,” said LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd.

Analysis

Russell Fuller, BBC tennis correspondent

The new national academies will be aimed primarily at those between the ages of 13 and 18, but could accommodate children as young as 11 if they meet the criteria.

There will be regional and local centres as well, but the LTA will be investing in fewer venues and individuals as part of its new performance strategy. There will be a maximum of 32 players across the two academies, so the talent identification programme will be crucial.

Costs will, however, be much reduced for the parents of those who do make the grade. The charge will be just £5,000 per year, which includes the expense of weeks on the road at tournaments.

The LTA admits its development programme has suffered from too much chopping and changing in recent years, and the volume of potential top-100 players in the pipeline is not nearly as great as it should be.

The LTA’s ambition, though, is that in 10 years’ time Britain will be one of the most respected nations in the world for player development.

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