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Is Australian Tennis in Crisis?

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Sport & Culture

Is Australian Tennis in Crisis?

The early Wimbledon exit of all of Australia’s tennis players has some in the game worried.

When Samantha Stosur crashed out of Wimbledon in the second round to Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands this week, it ended Australia’s representation at the prestigious tennis event.

It’s the fourth time that the country has had nobody to cheer for in the third round of a Grand Slam event, and each of these times has come in the past eight years. It’s not surprising that people in the game in Australia are worried.

Stosur dismissed talk of crisis, but admitted that work needed to be done.

“It's obviously a pretty woeful performance by all of us, but it’s not through lack of trying or not wanting to be here. It’s just one of those things,” the U.S. Open Champion said. “You have to look at something over a longer period of time than just one event before you say we’re in this dire straits kind of mode.”

“Of course it can be better. I’m sure I can speak for all the other players when I say we wish we had better tournaments,” she added.

But while Stosur at least survived the first round, no Australian man did. Bernard Tomic, Lleyton Hewitt, Matt Ebden and Marinko Matosevic all lost their opening matches.

In total, of the four men and five women who went to London, Stosur was the only one to win a match.

American legend John McEnroe has joined the debate, but told the Aussies not to panic.

There were other opinions too. Paul McNamee, a former doubles champions, said that he wasn’t surprised at the failure.

“We used to stand tall at Wimbledon. It’s the worst day I've ever known, I guess, in tennis history in living memory. It was a very, very sad day. Unfortunately I think this day has been coming for a while.

'”We’ve escaped the wrath with the odd player doing well…Lleyton (Hewitt) carried the flag and Sam obviously had good results, and Bernard Tomic is coming through. But it’s camouflaged a deeper problem where we really haven’t brought enough players through. We haven’t had the right philosophy for five or six years now and I think, unfortunately, the results are coming to roost.'”

Triple Wimbledon champion John Newcombe is also calling for action, but acknowledged that it won’t be easy. Australia may have provided some of Wimbledon’s best moments over the years, but it faces stiff competition these days.

That comes from the growing number of nations that are serious about the game, as well as the other sports at home who are competitors for young talent.

“Tennis is one of the biggest international sports,” Newcombe, now 68, said according to AAP.

“There’s so many nations playing it and, because there's so much money there, a lot of the best athletes from these countries choose from a young age to go into tennis.

“That’s really what it comes down to – we’ve got to try to get the best athletes before rugby and cricket and AFL and everything (else) get them.”

“I know that the junior programs are in place and I think they are pretty good,” Newcombe added. “But you don’t rebuild something overnight. That’s the thing.”