Scott's Blog: The summer is upon us
• 4 MINUTE READ
The sun is (mostly) out, which can only mean one thing – the grass court season is here. Sadly the sun has been somewhat absent in Paris, as we have to wait a little longer to see whether Johanna Konta can continue her fine form in the French Open.
The great news is that we’ll see her soon here in the UK at the LTA’s Nottingham, Birmingham and Eastbourne tournaments, alongside some fantastic global and British talent.
We also have the LTA’s Fever-Tree Championships at the Queen’s Club, where defending champion Marin Cilic returns to try and retain his crown against the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Juan Martin del Potro and a host of exciting young players.
And of course Queen’s will see the return of Andy Murray. He inspires so many people to follow our sport and so the news he is pain-free and able to compete, is cause for celebration for tennis fans everywhere.
As well as Andy’s return, I’m really proud that this year we’ll be hosting the Fever-Tree Wheelchair Championships at The Queen’s Club. It will be the first ever grass court wheelchair tennis ranking tournament to take place outside of Wimbledon. Also at our Queen’s tournament will be the inaugural Paul Hutchins Trophy – an 18 and under match between Great Britain and the United States.
These events give such a vital platform for our British players.
It was great to be able to give Paul Jubb, who recently won the NCAA in the US - an opportunity with a wild card in Surbiton earlier this week, as well as wild cards to Dan Evans for Nottingham and Queen’s. Jack Draper has a wild card into the main draw at our challenger event in Nottingham and I’m excited to see Jay Clarke going into the grass court season with a career high ranking of 158 playing in front of a home crowd.
Jack Draper is one of our 12 Pro Scholarship Programme (PSP) players. The PSP provides up to five years of funding, coaching, science and medicine support to help our highest potential players reach the world’s top 100. Up to £70k per year of PSP funding enables our players to engage a world class coach, train and compete in the right environments, all with the support of an assigned LTA National Coach. The first two years of the PSP have been a significant success, and by making players accountable to long-term individual development plans focused on doing the basics brilliantly, we have seen our players accelerate up the ATP/WTA rankings by an average of 303 places compared to just nine places gained by their international peers.
New courts, please
Following a recent debate in Parliament, I met separately with the Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, to share details of our exciting work in Scotland.
High on the agenda was our £7.5m capital investment in new indoor facilities and our collaboration with Jamie Murray on the Murray Trophy – Glasgow event later this year. Working together with sportscotland, our joint investment totals £15m and will create more than 40 indoor courts in a dozen locations, which are particularly needed in Scotland.
The good news is there is a pipeline of projects going through the approval process, and we were up in Scotland last month to scope out more potential sites to add to our plans. It is often said that Scotland punches above its weight in tennis and that’s why on a per capita basis, when taking into account all investment, spend on tennis in Scotland indexes slightly above spend on tennis in England, accounting for around 10 - 11% of total investment in tennis for 2019.
But we do of course need indoor and all-weather courts across the country, and this is key to growing the sport all year round. Since joining the LTA just over a year ago, I have spent a lot of time looking at how we invest our funds in tennis facilities such as sports centres, parks and clubs. I previously spent over 20 years in the leisure industry building fitness clubs and tennis centres, and I know that the key to success is to create clubs where the population is big enough to provide the customers that clubs need to thrive, and also the mix of facilities to keep them engaged.
So over the past few months we have been spending time researching where people want to play tennis, and mapping that data to the current tennis centres and parks – with a particular focus on indoor and all-weather courts.
We now know where the gaps are – where the demand exists but no courts are available – and this new data will drive our investment programme. Our ambition is to ensure that everyone, from our diverse communities across the country, is within a 30 minute journey to an indoor tennis court, so they can play all year round no matter what the British weather is!