No more bold targets - LTA chief Leon Smith

By David OrnsteinBBC Sport
Leon Smith with members of Britain's Davis Cup team
Smith (third from right) is adamant that British tennis is finally "going places"

Leon Smith has promised there will be no bold targets set during his tenure as the Lawn Tennis Association's head of men's and women's tennis.

The LTA has been criticised in the past for stating how many players it expected to reach the world's top 100 by a certain point in time.

But Smith told BBC Sport: "What I've learned is not to give targets.

"We've done that before - it's not the way to go. If we focus on the process, these could be exciting times."

Andy Murray is the only Briton inside the ATP top 100external-link but the nation is looking good on the men's doublesexternal-link front and has a promising crop of emerging talent, with six players inside the ITF junior top 100external-link.

Oli Golding, George Morgan, Liam Broady and Kyle Edmund have reached the boys' semi-finals or better at Grand Slam tournaments while Britain recently won its first Junior Davis Cup title.

There have also been successes in doubles, Futures and Challengersexternal-link.

On the women's side, Elena Baltacha, Heather Watson and Anne Keothavong are all in the WTA top 100external-link, with Laura Robson at a career-high 132nd.

While Eleanor Dean and Katy Dunne are the only British girls inside the ITF top-130external-link, there are a further 14 with top-500 rankings.

"British tennis is going places, there's a buzz about the place and the public have got a lot to look forward to in the next two or three years," said Smith.

"Ultimately it's a results-driven business and there's still a lot of work to be done, but what's positive is that we now have numbers.

"They're going far in big tournaments, improving their rankings and pushing each other on. There's a tremendous team spirit and healthy competition.

"Now it's about the support we can give, the programmes we put in place and the pathways we create to ensure they become very, very good athletes and make an impact on the ATP and WTA tours."

It was announced on Tuesday that Smith would be promoted from head of men's tennis and Davis Cup captain to also take charge of the women's game.

In a shake-up of the LTA's Performance team, he will work alongside a number of coaches little-known to most outside tennis circles.

This effectively brings an end to the LTA chief executive Roger Draper's experiment with big-name coaches on high salaries and long contracts.

Where once stood the likes of Brad Gilbert (former coach to Andre Agassi), Paul Annacone (Pete Sampras), Peter Lundgren (Roger Federer), Carl Maes (Kim Clijsters) and Nigel Sears (Daniela Hantuchova) now stand the likes of James Trotman, Martin Weston, Colin Beecher and Nick Weal.

Smith is delighted that home-grown coaches are now being given a chance to flourish but completely rejects the idea that Draper's project was a failure.

"I don't know if it's a U-turn but it's certainly good to see young British coaches given opportunities to work at the top end of the game," the Scot commented.

"A lot of people say it was a waste of money but I totally disagree, absolutely not. The results might not have been there but those 'big names' contributed to what we're seeing today.

"There was an awful lot of good work done - especially by Paul and Nigel - to educate our players and coaches, and we're still in regular contact with these people.

"They passed on their experiences to the younger coaches and now it's up to all of us to try and step up and keep that momentum going forward."

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