Wimbledon fortnight begins. A time when for a few fleeting summer days the nation embraces tennis.
The BBC swings into action, elbowing Eurosport aside, celebrities are (for some unfathomable reason in my opinion) spotted in the crowd and pigeons landing on a grass court are considered the height of situation comedy.
I’m a massive fan of tennis. I love everything about the game. It seems so does the UK…for a bit anyway. Although I suspect if Andy Murray tumbles out (I think he’ll reach the final by the way) the viewing figures will decline hugely. See also Roger Federer, the darling of SW19.
However, a recent survey by Sport England showed that tennis participation, compared to a lot of other sports, (notably swimming) is actually on the up. For the first time since 2012 no less. Has Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon and the 2012 London Olympics played a role?
Probably. His new confidence, reflected in his personality has been a little more conducive to putting bums on seats and smiles on faces too.
You would be forgiven for expecting the LTA to announce this with huge fanfare but compared to the previous Roger Draper regime, this one is more cagey. After all, even though the figures are on an upwards trend, we still only muster 700,000 monthly participants. I’d be intrigued to know how that spikes and falls either side of Wimbledon fortnight.
Here’s the new chap at the top (it would be a man) Michael Downey:
“When we saw the Active People Survey results we knew the worst thing we could do is celebrate, because it’s not a trend,” Downey told The Daily Telegraph this week. “The numbers have been falling over seven years, so just because we get a blip – and there are probably other things going on here, like the weather – we don’t want to take credit for something we didn’t believe we did. We feel we’re heading in the right direction but there’s a ton of work to do.”
Too right Michael – there is a lot to do.
Downey is not a Brit. He’s a Canadian. A Canadian whose role over there saw the emergence of Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard (I predict quarter finals for both). Can he bring an element of realism into British tennis? Will he deepen the pool of talent at the top of the game which sees only a handful likely to get past the first week? Murray & Watson (maybe) and at a HUGE push Laura Robson?
He might. However, he will only do so by long-term investment in the grass roots of British tennis. Many regimes and schemes have been launched over the years. Here’s hoping from a tennis fan’s perspective that we see another Andy Murray emerge soon.