As the spat between American teenager Taylor Townsend and the USTA continues to rumble on (and the latter’s claims that she did not have medical clearance sounds very dodgy), it’s good to see that one national organisation is doing the right thing with one of its own.
The relationship between Britain’s LTA (the Lawn Tennis Association) and the Broady family has been strained, to put it nicely, since September 2007 when photos of promising junior Naomi Broady on a social networking site after a night out prompted the LTA to temporarily withdraw funding for the teenager. In protest, her father Simon Broady took both Naomi and her younger brother Liam out of the system and funded their training himself.
In the intervening years, as Liam has improved to the point where he is now Britain’s top junior, both Broadys have remained outside the system, despite efforts by the LTA to offer an olive branch. Call it principle, call it stubbornness, either way, Mr Broady spent a lot of his own money funding his kids, which is a serious commitment. However, it also put Liam in a difficult position, having to defend his father for something that was no fault of his own and being away from the other top juniors and the advantages they receive, in both coaching and finances.
Now, Liam is back in the LTA fold and he seems happy about it, which has to be a good thing. The LTA funded his trip to North America for the Canadian Open and the US Open and he reached the final of both. His disappointment in not winning a junior grand slam title should be outweighed by how much better he feels being back among his contemporaries in London, and being able to use the extensive facilities of the National Training Centre. He seems a genuinely decent guy but also a sensitive one so it must have taken a lot of courage for him to up sticks and head to London. Good luck to him.
As the world’s top players consider their options regarding chasing a rise in prize money at the grand slams, as a proportion of tournament revenue, it is worth remembering that the players do not have their own union. They work within the ATP, which runs the Tour and for the most part, has been successful. It would probably give them more bargaining power should they have their own union but they would still need to have a good working relationship with the ATP anyway.
These issues are problematic and require some real leadership and the question is whether the ATP could not do with a few more brains at the top. Reading a New York Times article over the last few days, I was reminded how much of a loss to the tennis world the retirement of Mario Ancic was. The Croat quit the game early after a series of injuries and terrible luck with illness and has now been accepted into the Master’s programme at the prestigious Colombia Law School.
While off the Tour, Ancic studied law and passed his exams. Having had the pleasure to interview him once or twice over the years, he is a smart, thoughtful, interesting person who is a loss to tennis but will doubtless be a great addition to the world of law. But how good would it be if one day, perhaps when he has done what he wants to in the legal world, he returned to tennis to play a serious role in administration of the sport.