TENNIS Hereford’s head coach Andrew Griffiths is hoping that interest in his sport could be set for a renaissance after GB’s great summer of 2012.
And he acknowledges that tennis has to ride the wave of its current surge of publicity thanks to the success of Andy Murray.
“You only have to look at the back pages of the newspapers and it’s mostly football, rugby or cricket,” he said.
“Tennis, other than maybe in the last three or four weeks has never been on the back page unless it’s Wimbledon.
“When the children are getting inspired to play sport, they are inspired to play those sports they see on the television every day.
“As tennis is only played, in some people’s eyes, for two weeks in the year, we have to jump on that and keep their interest going for as long as we can.
“I’m hoping that Andy Murray’s US Open win will have a huge impact on the sport.
“But Laura Robson also did well at the Olympics so hopefully interest will be across both the male and female game.”
Herefordshire is already well placed to benefit from any upsurge in interest in the game with Griffiths and his team already working with a crop of talented young players.
“It’s been a long time coming and has taken a big commitment from the facilities and the parents who have been patient with us and the coaches in getting their qualifications,” he said.
“But mostly it has been the commitment of players in signing up to a long-term programme rather than a short-term.
“We are not gifted with the massive indoor facilities that somewhere like Birmingham or Warwick University has, but we do provide a great programme using both outdoor and indoor courts and provide a flexible programme for these up-and-coming players.
“This crop of youngsters has come through the local clubs of Herefordshire.
“Adam Bowen is from Eardisley and his mum was heavily involved in the set-up at Eardisley Tennis Club which has won lots of awards for its use in the community.
“Adam, after a few years, moved to the Hereford Whitecross Club to train with our area squad — he is now number 13 in the country for the under-15 boys.
“We have a lot of players who do not live in the centre of Hereford — Alicia Williams lives in Shobdon , Ryan Price is from Staunton-on-Wye and David Turner lives in Ashperton and they are just some of the players who are doing exceptionally well at present.”
“Seeing the players’ rankings this week and seeing them in the top 20 in the whole country is really good.
“You look at players in the top 50 and they are from affluent backgrounds, their parents are wealthy, can throw lots of money in and can travel with them whereas our players are just ordinary, Herefordshire-born, talented sportspeople and it is lovely that they are reaping the rewards of what they have put into the sport.”
Griffiths acknowledges, however, that finance has a crucial part to play in the development of the game within Herefordshire.
“Funding this year has been a problem because the LTA have had their funding cut through lack of performance and a change in the performance set-up,” he said.
“If you are a player of any standing, then you have to be accessing an indoor tennis centre whereas we were going down the route of just using the Whitecross club so we have had all our funding cut.
“So we agreed with Halo to use the indoor tennis centre at the Bridge Street complex in Leominster — they have been fantastic, especially over the summer and Easter.
“I really have to thank them for some of the success we have had — with the weather that we have had this summer, some of these players wouldn’t be where they are today if we had not had the use of the indoor courts.
“But funding is a major issue because it is not a cheap sport.
“I’m hoping the LTA will jump on the bandwagon and throw a little bit more money into local coaches going into schools.
“We have to be realistic, tennis is not the cheapest of sports when you are expecting children to come to a club, become a member and then pay for coaching to be able to be seen.
“All the money for the last few years has been tied up in the Olympics. Now hopefully we can get that legacy that they have been talking about.”