How Andy Murray has changed British tennis
Andy Murray beat the odds to be crowned ATP Finals champion, securing the year-end world number one spot for the first time.
He beat his old rival Novak Djokovic 6-3 6-4 in the last match of 2016 on the ATP tour and has every chance of keeping his top-place ranking early in 2017, as the Serb has a huge number of points to defend in the first half of the season.
While Murray has set the bar extremely high, the level of British players underneath him is also rising sharply.
There are times I think it’s too quiet for such a magnificent facility and it would be nice to see it filled with more players.
Brother Jamie ended the year as the top doubles team alongside his partner, Brazilian Bruno Soares after a stellar year in which he won two Grand Slam titles in Australia and at Wimbledon.
There was another Wimbledon title for Heather Watson in the mixed with Henry Kontinen.
Johanna Konta broke into the top 10 on the WTA rankings while, on the men’s tour, Kyle Edmund is around the world’s top 40 and Dan Evans the top 60.
British tennis is in its strongest position for decades.
“It’s inspiring being around Andy and watching him train and playing doubles with him in some events,” Watson told Newsbeat at the National Training Centre recently.
“It’s amazing to see where hard work can get you.”Î¾
The LTA’s National Tennis Centre is based in Roehampton, south-west London, built in 2007 at a cost of Î£40m but critics say it isn’t being used enough.
Last year Konta said: “There are times I think it’s too quiet for such a magnificent facility and it would be nice to see it filled with more players.Î¾
After Britain’s Davis Cup win last year, Andy Murray also criticised the LTA for not doing enough to get juniors playing.
On NewsbeatÈs visit to the NTC, the courts were full of top British under-13s playing France indoors.
A number of young players from less advantaged backgrounds were having a lesson on the outdoor courts as part of the LTA’s tennis for kids scheme.
Michael Downey, Chief Executive of the LTA, says Murray’s criticism in particular has been taken on board.
“There’s a silver lining. Andy and the other players put out a stern message to us that asked what does the future generation look like?
“And that’s why we put out the tennis for kids initiative that they actually supported.”
So has he been able to take positives from what Andy and co said?
“We’re sitting here a year later – 14,000 kids were introduced to the sport and we want it be an ongoing programme because we think it will grow the sport among youth.”
Since Michael Downey took charge three years ago, top British players have been encouraged to take more responsibility for their own careers than under previous regimes.
They still get financial help but the onus is on them to step up and prove they have what it takes to compete at the top level, or risk losing funding.
With that in mind, what exactly is the LTA for these days?
“We’re focused on participation and we’re focused on a sport that had long term decline in numbers, [although] that’s starting to flatten out now.
“It’s what we’re doing in parks and schools, as well as trying to make sure there’s a good competitive model out there.
“They’re all things we’re doing to make sure we can get into sustainable growth.”
In 2012 funding for the LTA was cut by Sport England because of the drop in adults playing tennis regularly.ξ
Michael Downey believes Sport England now appreciates what the LTA are doing to reverse that.
“We work extensively with Sport England and right now I think we’re well regarded because they like where we’re going, especially the work we are doing with community and parks,” he explains.ξ
“And there’s the Davis Cup legacy. Our tennis for kids programme was launched on the back of our British win.
“We went out to get 10,000 kids aged five to eight, playing with 1,000 kids across the land. And we’re looking to roll that out and get 20,000 kids playing next year.”