Here Come the Girls…

Jan 18, 2009

Four British women have now made it into the draw for the Australian Open: Elena Baltacha (118), Katie O’Brien (104), joining Anne Keothavong (53)and Melanie South (102). Not since the US Open in 1992 have four British women succeeded in the draw, so for the future of British tennis, this is exciting stuff. What with the spotlight centred squarely on Andy Murray for Britain’s Grand Slam hopes, it’s refreshing to see the women players do so well without the media attention. And as Baltacha and Keothavong have both claimed, they have nothing to lose. As well as a lot of well-earned respect to gain.

Viriginia Wade’s Wimbledon win in 1977 is an illustrious part of British women’s history, but it has constantly been blighted by other nations. Players have generally paled in comparison to the Eastern Europeans; the world rankings are dominated by players from Russia (Nadia Petrova, Dinara Safina, and the currently injured Maria Sharapova), Serbia (Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic) and Slovakia (Daniela Hantuchova, Dominika Cibulkova) are to name but a few. Maybe there’s something in the water, but these countries do churn out a surprising amount of professional, successful tennis players.

In the United Kingdom last year, the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) received scorn for their injection of funds in women’s tennis. Many believed there was little point what with the lasting stereotype being that British women rarely got past the first round. Thankfully Nigel Seats, the LTA’s Head Coach of women’s tennis, has found a way to break the stereotype and inspired these players to do so too.

There is no limit to the inspiration these women could provide for new British tennis players. Baltacha, O’Brien, Keothavong and South are shining examples to Britain’s youngest hope, Laura Robson, who at 15 could do with a guiding light in the darkness that has been women’s British tennis for many years. These women could provide this.

So the Australian Open begins tomorrow. It’s uplifting to know that the ‘World’s Biggest Stage’ will be showing off more of British tennis than Andy Murray, and that there’s certainly more to the Australian Open than the men’s tournament.


-          SophieG


Written by: SophieG

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