Former British No.1 Jo Durie was in attendance at the UK Pro League in her capacity as coach for Eliz Maloney and she gave us her thoughts on the importance of the event in the British tennis calendar and the impact made on the game by last year’s Pro League champion, Emma Raducanu.
How important has the UK Pro League been to British players in the last 18 months?
It has been so important. The UK Pro League has been a lifesaver as it has allowed our players to play matches and earn money when travel was so difficult. You can only practice so much and it has been wonderful to have this event spread over the course of the year.
For a player like Eliz Maloney (Below), who I am working with at this event, it has given her a wonderful platform to play matches and when she was able to travel again, the games she had under her belt really helped her. There is nothing like playing matches.
The LTA are supporting this and that is the right thing to do. We all need to pull together in tennis for the good of the game and there are too many different factions in tennis. The last thing we need is any more.
What is the first big target for the players in the UK Pro League?
Top 100 is what they are aiming for. If you get to that level, you are playing in all four Grand Slam tournaments and you are starting to earn money from the sport. Your experience at that level of the game is different and that is what all these players in the UK Pro League are striving for. When you get there, anything is possible. The trouble is there are a lot of players our there from a whole load of countries who are working as hard as you to get there.
Emma Raducanu won the UK Pro League last year and now she is the US Open champion. What impact can her success have on other British players?
There are some players who played her in this country not so long ago and beat her. Then they see her winning a Grand Slam and they will think why can’t I do something like that. It has given them extra motivation and confidence.
It was just totally amazing. We are all still talking about it. I have spoken to so many people who never really watched tennis and it just caught their imagination. It really has made an impact on a lot of people. She is so engaging as a character, easy to watch as she is such a great player and it really has inspired a lot of people and given our game a massive boost.
Did you always see this potential in Raducanu?
I saw someone who was going to be very good, but to win a Grand Slam like that… no I didn’t see that happening. This was someone who didn’t play much at the start of this year, had not even played a match on the WTA Tour and then she played in the manner she did at Wimbledon before we all saw what happened at the US Open. That was not on anyone’s radar, but we can all see the talent there. She works hard, is eager to learn, has a great temperament, so let’s celebrate her success. It’s fantastic for Emma and everyone involved in British tennis.
How can we open more doors to our young players in the UK?
There are only four Grand Slams that get the benefit of money from those events and we are licks to have one here with Wimbledon, so it’s all about how you use it. The LTA are on to a hiding to nothing a lot of the time, but I would like to see the money spread around a little bit more. I work with youngsters at the Jet Academy in North London and you see players at the age of 11 and 12 who are winning events, but they might not even be playing the sport by the age of 16. So it’s very difficult to pick out early on those players who will succeed. Some players develop later. It is hard to assess who are the players to back, so spreading the money around a little more to encourage development may be helpful.