Tennis stars weigh in on new LTA wild card reforms for Wimbledon

Retired British tennis ace Ross Hutchins and other past and present hot shots have backed the Lawn Tennis Association’s (LTA) stricter wild card reforms for Wimbledon.

The policy to select British players with a ranking of 250 or better has been overhauled with the LTA’s new reform rewarding players for their attitude, professionalism and recent form.

A lucrative first-round berth at the Championships earned a player £27,000 in 2014 and this amelioration is an attempt to get players to aim higher and not gear their schedules purely to cash in on this; something many tennis stars concur with.

Former British Davis Cup doubles stalwart Hutchins tweeted South West Londoner to say he he thought the decision was “extremely positive.”

ESPN pundit Darren Cahill – who guided Lleyton Hewitt to become the youngest ever ranked number one and win two Grand Slams – also tweeted his approval.

“I think it’s completely understandable reasoning,” he wrote.

“Sense of entitlement needs to be removed. KPI’s (key performance indicators) also. Everything should be earned.”

Andy Murray’s former coach Brad Gilbert neither condoned nor condemned the new system.

“I guess they want their players to earn their way in. Not sure what is best though,” he tweeted.

Although the ambition is to drive up standards, there are fears it may demoralise players who are struggling to establish themselves on the professional circuit due to financial concerns.

Former British number two Josh Goodall, who retired because of a lack of funding despite his parents remortgaging their house five times, tweeted a more in-depth proposal.

“Wimbledon wild card targets should be top 450 for under 18s. Top 250 for under 21s and top 200 for over 21s,” he wrote.

The new stricter reforms have been coming ever since LTA chief executive Michael Downey and director of player development Bob Brett joined the governing body in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

“This isn’t a sudden decision. It’s part of a wider program about how we fund the top players from the introduction of Bob Brett last year,” said an LTA spokesman.

“We aren’t setting a standard of arbitrary rankings points or a ranking. We just want to improve the standard of high performance across all areas of our program.

“From wild cards at Wimbledon to how the high performance structure is set up through coaches and coaching centre’s around the country.

“We aren’t looking at any specific players. It is more about a culture change and raising the bar of performance standards across the game.”

Last year just one of the eight British players given wild cards for the singles advanced to the second round of the Championships, Naomi Broady, currently ranked 168th in the world.

The new scheme should prevent cases like Alex Bogdanovic, who failed to make it to the second round of Wimbledon despite receiving a wild card into the first round a record eight times.

Feature image of Ross Hutchins, courtesy of British Tennis, with thanks

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