Marcus Willis accuses LTA of failing to care about British tennis

Charlie Eccleshare
Marcus Ellis took a swipe at the LTA with his comments - Getty Images Europe
Marcus Ellis took a swipe at the LTA with his comments - Getty Images Europe

As the nation revels in Andy Murray’s comeback, there is a creeping sense that he may be papering over the cracks in British tennis.

In truth, it is a situation Murray has found himself in for much of the past 14 years, but one that was brought into sharp relief on Monday by an explosive interview from Marcus Willis – he of Wimbledon 2016 fairy-tale fame.

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Willis was the wisecracking cheeky chappy who made it all the way from pre-qualifying to a Centre Court date with Roger Federer. Now 28 and without a main-tour ranking, Willis has lambasted the Lawn Tennis Association for its failure to produce elite male players.

“Which male player have they ever produced?” he asked on the This is Moneyball podcast. “There’s the same people in there doing the same things. There’s too much chat and too many people who don’t ­really care about British tennis, they’re just there making a good amount of money, getting nice ­tickets at Queen’s and Wimbledon and get to kiss people’s a----.”

The LTA declined to comment, but could point to Kyle Edmund – a semi-finalist at last year’s Australian Open – as a recent success story (Murray spent many of his formative years abroad, so is generally not viewed as an LTA alumnus).

<span>Willis caught the headlines when he played Roger Federer on Wimbledon centre court in 2016</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Willis caught the headlines when he played Roger Federer on Wimbledon centre court in 2016 Credit: Getty Images

In the short term, though, Willis may have a point – especially after another disappointing day for the British players. There were defeats for six of the seven home players in Wimbledon qualifying action, which followed no ­singles wins at Queen’s last week.

In Eastbourne, meanwhile, talented 19-year-old Paul Jubb was given a harsh lesson in his first ATP-level match by world No 42 Taylor Fritz. Jubb, who looked fatigued after qualifying here and impressive runs in Nottingham and Ilkley, went down 6-2, 6-3 in the first round of the Nature Valley International.

Jubb acknowledged afterwards that Fritz was a step up in class to anything he had faced previously. 

Back to the wider picture of British tennis, and it is a similar story on the women’s side, where one stellar individual is doing much of the heavy lifting. Outside of Johanna Konta, there are no Britons in the top 120 – and she was the only home player to win a match at Birmingham last week or in the first round at Eastbourne over the weekend.

Konta will continue her Wimbledon preparations on the coast on Tuesday, with a second-round match against Greece’s Maria Sakkari.

Also in action in the singles will be the British trio of Dan Evans, Jay Clarke and Cameron Norrie, who was leading Jeremy Chardy 3-0 when rain stopped play.

One player who will not be competing in Eastbourne is new world No 1 Ashleigh Barty, who withdrew from the Nature Valley International with a right arm injury. She insisted that the injury would not affect her Wimbledon participation.

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