Emma Raducanu 'papered over cracks' in British Tennis

Dan Evans serving on clay - Emma Raducanu 'papered over cracks' in British Tennis - REUTERS/GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE
Dan Evans serving on clay - Emma Raducanu 'papered over cracks' in British Tennis - REUTERS/GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE

Dan Evans, the British No 2, believes that Emma Raducanu's US Open victory "papered over the cracks" of British tennis.

Just three British players – Evans, Cameron Norrie and Jack Draper – have made it into the singles draw at the French Open, which begins on Sunday.

There will be no British women at Roland Garros, the first time that has happened at a major tournament since 2009. The lack of representation comes weeks after injury-beleaguered Raducanu fell out of the top 100, marking the first time there have been no British women in the world's top order in 15 years.

To add to that, just three British men and seven women played the qualifying event in Paris, with none coming through to the main draw. And to make matters worse, Norrie appeared injured in a heavy defeat in Lyon on Friday (see report below).

Evans plays his first-round match of the French Open proper on Sunday, against Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis.The world No 24, who has been a vocal critic of the LTA over the years, was asked if Raducanu's success had masked the slipping standards in British tennis and attacked the Lawn Tennis Association's running of the sport.

"Yeah, they've been lucky that they had a grand slam champion and she's a very good tennis player but the rankings don't lie, do they? Men's or women's, the rankings don't lie. Men's, not many of us playing qualis [qualifying at the French Open], not many main draw. I don't want to sound like a broken record but there's way further to go than just the top players. It's from the bottom up.

"We're in a massive, massive habit of sending people to college [in the US] now. I don't think that massively helps. I think the grass last year really helped paper over some cracks as well. There was some good results but if you look at the players who did pretty good on the grass last year, who were wildcards etc, rankings don't lie. After the grass, there will be a bit of soul-searching I imagine."

Evans suggests money should be spread wider

Evans's criticism comes in the same week that the LTA announced that it made £43 million from Wimbledon last year and had seen a 48 per cent increase in the number of people playing tennis aged 16 to 34.

But for all the LTA's riches and the masses flocking to the sport, the British players on tour consistently fail to make the grade.

Evans, 33, suggested the problem was giving too much funding to too few individuals, instead of spreading resources among a larger group with the potential to pursue careers on tour. He specifically criticised the player scholarship programme, a grant system previously overseen by former LTA performance director Simon Timson, who abruptly joined Manchester City in 2020 after just three years in the job.

The grant is offered to players aged between 16 and 24, who are considered to have the best chance of reaching the ATP/WTA top 100 within five years. British No 2 Jodie Burrage, Harriet Dart, Paul Jubb, Sonay Kartal and Felix Gill are the five players currently benefiting from between £45,000 and £70,000 per year in LTA funding.

Andy Murray previously questioned the system in 2020, arguing, "it's someone's opinion as to who gets the funding".

'LTA said I was close to ending my career but I've done alright'

On Friday Evans pointed out that, after he returned from his drugs ban in 2018, he was written off by the LTA but has gone on to reach the world's top 25.

"Argentina got 12 men [actually 13] in the qualis here, they have no money, they have nothing. Not a federation basically. We need to make people love tennis, get involved, but if you're putting five people on PSP [the player scholarship programme], what does that hope for the others?

"It's just heartbreaking that a guy next door to you is getting 70 grand or something, but you're better than him. But a guy with these stats is telling you 'No, no, he's better'. And I mean, you can look who has been on PSP. It's hardly flourishing reading is it? And that's what I think we need to [do]: get a bigger pool and just pool it all in and get going. It's simple maths. But Simon Timson, he was the mastermind of it all.

"I couldn't give a s--- about it. Simon Timson, who sat next to me and told me 'In all due respect to James Ward here and Heather Watson, I put you three in the same bracket. You are close to finishing your career.' I said 'Thanks, man', that was that meeting. And I seem to have done all right since that meeting. He sent me to a psychologist, that was about it.

"I'm not sitting here saying I know the answers. I have a fair idea of the answers and I would do it very differently to what's happening now I think. There's enough people playing junior tennis. We just don't help them in my opinion."

Norrie hit in the groin in heavy defeat to Francisco Cerundulo but fit for French Open

By Simon Briggs, in Paris

Cameron Norrie playing a backhand - PA/Robert Perry
Cameron Norrie playing a backhand - PA/Robert Perry

An apparent injury scare for British No1 Cameron Norrie turned out to be a simple case of a bang in the groin – painful but hopefully not problematic over the long term.

Norrie’s French Open prospects looked to be hanging by a thread when he returned to his bench midway through the second game of the second set. As he sat down, looking crestfallen, one wondered if he might call for the trainer. But instead he returned to the baseline and got on with his Lyon semi-final against Francisco Cerundulo.

The match was something of a washout, with Cerundulo rushing to a 6-3, 6-0 victory in just 77 minutes. But at least Norrie appears to have come away from Lyon without any lasting niggles that could hamper his Roland Garros campaign.

His opening match in Paris, which has been scheduled for Monday, will pit him against the eccentric Frenchman Benoit Paire. Even though Norrie is sure to receive plenty of heckling from the local fans, his endurance and determination should be enough against a player who is seen as something of a dilettante.

Norrie had gone to Lyon to defend the title he won 12 months ago. Playing the week before a grand slam is always risky, but it seems that he has got away with a clean bill of health.

In a brief interview after the match, Norrie said “He played better than me and that showed in the score,” he said. “I was disappointed with my level compared to the other two matches.

“I have had a few matches before the French Open,” added Norrie, “which is exactly what I came here to do. It was a difficult way to go out but he played better than me and deserved the win.”

Norrie will be carrying plenty of expectation in Paris after an unpromising build-up for the British contingent.

Three weeks ago, Emma Raducanu pulled out of the French Open following wrist and ankle surgery, whereupon Andy Murray withdrew to focus on the grass-court season. Jodie Burrage – Britain’s best-performing female in recent months – opted not to participate because of an elbow niggle, while none of the 10 players who did then enter qualifying managed to reach the final round.

It is up to Norrie, Dan Evans and Jack Draper to fly the flag. Hopefully, they can avoid the nightmare scenario that unfolded at both the 2013 and 2020 French Opens. In each of those years, there were zero British singles victories to celebrate.