Another Wimbledon, and another spate of articles lamenting the state of British tennis. This year, it seem, we’ve done extra-specially badly—never before have all our singles players been knocked out by the first Thursday. The boss of the LTA thinks our players are too fat and lazy to compete. But surely all this gloom is over-the-top. British tennis may not be in a wonderful state, but it is a damn sight healthier than it was when I was a keen junior player, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I remember those desperate days, when our hopes attached to the likes of John Lloyd, Jeremy Bates, Andrew Castle and Annabel Croft—players who never looked as if they had a hope of winning anything. Sure, at the moment we seem to have even less depth than we did then, especially in the women’s game. But we do have—in Andy Murray—a player who is capable of actually winning a Grand Slam (and who would surely have lasted beyond the first Thursday had he played). And before him we had Tim Henman, arguably the best male British player since Fred Perry. (Not to mention Greg Rusedski, although he doesn’t really count.)
People are always banging on about how elitist tennis is. I often play on public courts around London, and I see lots of black and Asian kids playing, many of whom are clearly extremely talented. In general, the standard of young players seems extremely high—certainly, much higher than when I was a junior. So I think we should cheer up a bit. The state of British tennis, for once, looks quite good….