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Wimbledon shame blamed on funding

PUBLISHED: 12:31 24 June 2010 | UPDATED: 11:48 23 August 2010

THE RICH SUCCEED: Coach Alex Woolmington says poorer areas struggle to provide top tennis training.

THE RICH SUCCEED: Coach Alex Woolmington says poorer areas struggle to provide top tennis training.

A TENNIS coach and player have questioned the quality of facilities in the borough as Wimbledon begins without a single English man in the draw. Alex Woolmington coaches independently at Cobham Tennis Club, Legends in Gravesend and Meopham Tennis Club.

A TENNIS coach and player have questioned the quality of facilities in the borough as Wimbledon begins without a single English man in the draw.

Alex Woolmington coaches independently at Cobham Tennis Club, Legends in Gravesend and Meopham Tennis Club.

He claims tennis talent in the area could suffer from a lack of investment at national level.

The 22-year-old said: "I feel there's not enough money put in at grass roots level. In Meopham they have been trying to get funding for better equipment.

"In my experience you see the better players coming from richer areas such as in Bromley and that is because the people there have more money and so the facilities are better quality."

Asked if there were any budding Tim Henmans or Andy Murrays he was teaching, Mr Woolmington pointed to brothers Jack and Joe Hicklin, who have both reached the top 20 in the county.

He said: "They both have great potential but it is a tough sport to progress in."

Jack Hicklin, 16, is coming back from a knee injury that has hampered his training, and hopes to push himself to the top of the Kent under-18's rankings.

He agrees that more could be done to help young players.

"I would like to see the Lawn Tennis Association pick out the top 5 from each county at a young age and provide them with the training they need," he said. "In some respects it seems you have to know the right people and be in the right place. A big thing is indoor courts so you can practice all year."

Jack, and his brother Joe who competes at under-16 level, said he was keen to try and reach national level.

He added: "I would certainly consider it quite seriously but I have been set back quite a bit by injury."

An LTA spokesperson said: "There are already 173 places to play tennis across Kent listed at www.lta.org.uk/playtennis, including 70 parks and 103 clubs.

"Many parks offer free court time, and average club membership is relatively affordable.

"In terms of talented youngsters, the LTA supports more than 400 juniors from around the country, including some in Kent.

She also pointed to programmes to give more than 200,000 free rackets to primary schools across the country and to train teachers in coaching.

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