When you look back at the history of British tennis, the late 20th and early 21st centuries weren’t overly successful.
Although there were memorable Grand Slam wins for the likes of Andy Murray, Sue Barker and Virginia Wade, the United Kingdom has endured a troublesome era regarding title-winning triumphs. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear likely to change any time soon.
Following a collective failure among British representatives at this year’s French Open, concerns have surfaced regarding the future of UK tennis. So, let’s take a look at the legitimacy of such worries.
Present-Day Shortcomings Shed Light on Generational Failures
Regarding recent outings, Heather Watson was the final British player to exit the 2020 French Open before the start of the second round. To put into perspective the scale of the issue, Murray, the two-time Wimbledon champion, equalled his worst-ever Grand Slam defeat, losing in straight sets to Stan Wawrinka. Interestingly, the Scottish player – who has long spearheaded the UK’s pursuit of tennis majors – suggested back in 2019 that Britain have failed to capitalize on its recent successes.
In many ways, Murray appears right in what he says. 18 months later, the UK has no participants left in the French Open after each fell to below-par defeats at the first hurdle. Much like the former Wimbledon champion, Watson believes that “more players need to get help", as opposed to the existing outlook where only a few receive assistance, as per The Guardian.
For Britain, this French-based failure is a microcosm of collective frustrations throughout past decades. The last time that a British player reached a Grand Slam final in a single’s tournament was in 2016 when Murray lost to Djokovic at the Australian Open. Going forward, if Murray is to reignite Britain’s love of tennis at Wimbledon in 2021, then he’ll likely have to defeat the Serbian, who is 6/4 to win the event with the latest tennis odds, as of September 30th.
Where is the Next Generation?
Fundamentally, the need to alter its approach is something that Britain will need to consider throughout the next decade. However, it may prove to be more problematic than expected. While, of course, Watson is fair in wanting more players to receive coaching at a young age, this is somewhat reliant on having high enough engagement. On that point, according to a report by City A.M., tennis recorded a nine per cent drop in monthly participation levels.