Boris Becker has set up home with his new wife and child as a Wimbledon resident and couldn’t be happier. But he is appalled by the fact that not a single Englishman figures in the 128-strong Men’s Singles main draw this year for the first time in its’ 133 year history.
Britain’s only two representatives are both Scottish; fourth seed Andy Murray and wild card recipient Jamie Baker. Stricter measures have been used over the issuing of wild cards this year and Alex Bogdanovic, Daniel Evans and Josh Goodall and seven others were all knocked out in the qualifying rounds while James Ward elected to play at Eastbourne where he reached the quarter finals.
Meantime Becker views the quality of English players with disbelief. “It is a shocking fact and there can be no excuse,” he said.
“Frankly it is beyond belief and somebody must be doing something horribly wrong. A country has the finest tennis tournament in the world and does not have one player good enough to play. The image of tennis is all wrong over here and needs to change. I love football but over here that is everything all the time and I’d just like tennis to be that much bigger.”
The Lawn Tennis Association decreed that no wild cards would be given to players outside the world’s top 250 – although Baker, who has only just recaptured full fitness after a horrendous couple of years with illness and injury, is currently ranked 259.
Ward, whose ranking also dropped because of illness and currently stands at 342 although that is guaranteed to rise after two notable wins at Eastourne over Feliciano Lopez and Rainer Schuettler, feels hard done by.
“It's a little bit disappointing not to get a wildcard,” said the Londoner. “I've been in the top 250 for 18 months and only dropped off the week before the cut because of losing the points from the Sarasota Challenger I won last year. But what can I do? I don't make the decisions.”
Britain’s new Davis Cup captain Leon Smith accepts the current rankings are not good enough but was heartened by the way his players battled hard in the qualifying rounds. “That's what we need to concentrate on - creating an environment where more British players aren't just in the first round because of a wildcard, but on merit,” he said.
However one of Smith’s predecessors David Lloyd was highly critical of the LTA's failure to put Ward forward for a wildcard, attaching the blame to chief executive Roger Draper.
“Maybe Roger Draper has done it for a reason so that they don't all lose in the first round and he loses his job," said Lloyd. "He can't get slaughtered now. He's not stupid.”
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