Tennis Centre is a white elephant, says Andy Murray's former coach

By Calum LeslieBBC Scotland
London's National Tennis Centre
The National Tennis Centre opened in 2007

The National Tennis Centre is a "white elephant" that has damaged grassroots tennis, according to Andy Murray's former coach.

Mark Petchey believes the money for the facility in London should have been used instead for centres across the UK - including at least one in Scotland.

"It's for a select few and we don't have enough players anyway," he said.

In response, the LTA highlighted a new strategy aimed at boosting participation by increasing spending.

Speaking this week at a tennis course at a school in Paisley, Petchey said an alternative strategy would have meant UK tennis would have now been in a "better position".

The NTC in Roehampton, South London opened in 2007 at an estimated cost of £39m. Last year, elite performers were moved from the site to other facilities across the country.

It is still home to the Davis and Fed Cup sides, the wheelchair programme and junior training camps.

Andy Murray and Mark Petchey
Petchey (right) has worked in broadcasting since coaching Murray (left)

Petchey, who coached Murray into the top 50 in the world, said: "I was always against the NTC being built where it was for the amount of money it was.

"I felt unfortunately that it was always going to be a white elephant and it's proved to be. For me it was the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle, not the first piece. The first piece is to increase the base.

"I think had we at the time seen what was right, which was to build maybe 15 regional centres for £2m a pop - and clearly Scotland needs to have one if not two performance centres up here for their kids - we probably would be in a better situation than we currently are from a grassroots and performance level.

"What you want is a nice problem with too many kids, not too few. It was way too much money for the amount of people it was going to cater for."

Petchey also feels whoever follows Murray will struggle with expectations, and that the UK's aim should instead be to develop several "top 100" ranked players.

"I think that's really the health of a system," Petchey explained. "Not whether we've got another Andy Murray or three Andy Murrays.

National Tennis Centre
Opened by the Queen in 2007Cost an estimated £39m
Contains 16 outdoor courts and six indoorsBecame the new headquarters of the Lawn Tennis Association

"I don't think [the LTA] have put enough money into the grassroots. I think there's been a lot of lip service and if you look at it in terms of wages and where the performance money's gone, I think it's been a very poor cousin, grassroots tennis."

An LTA spokesman told BBC Scotland: "Last year saw the launch of a new four-year strategy with a focus more than ever on participation and aims to deliver on the LTA's mission of getting 'more people playing tennis more often'.

"This strategy has the future health of our sport at the heart of it, and aims to tackle head-on the long-term trend of falling participation by setting a foundation that will help to drive sustainable growth across tennis in Britain.

"The decline will not be arrested over night and the turnaround will take time, but our collective focus on tennis provision within clubs, community (led by parks) and education settings will make our sport more accessible and more inclusive.

"Participation spending is forecasted to increase by over 50% from £17m in 2014 to £26m in 2018."

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