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British tennis is just fine: Sit back and enjoy

While some are in a constant state of panic, Aidan Williams argues British players should be heralded, not chastised during the summer grass court season.

While the English national team toil and struggle to find form and goals at the European Championships in Germany, the discourse surrounding Harry Kane et al has come to the fore - with even former players such as Gary Lineker under the microscope for describing the performances as "shit."

The way we talk about tennis players, both in the media and on Twitter (oh, sorry, X) is also the topic of much debate.

Despite some recent heroics from Jack Draper - taking the Stuttgart title and beating Carlos Alcaraz at Queens - a familiar sigh came over me as Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans lost in their respective round of 16 and quarter-final matches at the Nottingham Challenger. But it wasn’t because of the results.

It would be the knowledge that somewhere feathers would be ruffled over the state of British tennis. The sigh often comes around this time of year as British fans wake up more to tennis as the tour comes closer to home, via the notable stop in Paris, where Britons rarely make on impact on the dirt in the French capital.

Fans become alert as they near their trips to the home tournaments. They start to look at some of the scores, and begin to panic. Yet it feels so overblown.

How far can Jack Draper go at Wimbledon?

  • Round 1 or 2

  • Round 3 or 4

  • Further

In the end, the Nottingham Challenger had two British finalists, with Jacob Fearnley winning the tournament as a qualifier, defeating Charles Broom. Elsewhere, Katie Boulter successfully defended her title in the women’s 250 event also in Nottingham.

It’s a strong response to the critics but one which emphasises what the more dedicated fans already know: British tennis is fine, but patience is key. Emma Raducanu and Draper have some serious talent, but have been beset by injury, with the former's recent decision-making regarding the French Open and the Olympics being quietly impressive. Meanwhile, Boulter now has three titles in the past 12 months.

Naturally, events surrounding big tournaments, and Grand Slams in particular, will take precedence. So the headlines will be about Andy Murray's looming retirement and Raducanu not playing the Olympics, even if the latter is a positive. The job of British tennis fans is to be the voice that anyone will see if they wish to make the faintest scratch below the surface.

With Murray, expectations nowadays are naturally tempered as the passage of time and injuries catches up with the former world no.1. Indeed, right now the hope is he plays Wimbledon, never mind win a match or two, given his back injury and conflicting media reports about his participation.

It is true that it has been a difficult year some of the established leading lights. Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie are having difficult runs, while Heather Watson is currently ranked 198. I do not mean to denigrate any of them, more emphasise that the home fans should give support if they feel alarmed and not just pour more anger or dejection onto the players. Also Broom and Fearnley should both receive a healthy influx of ranking points, while Boulter and Draper will be seeded at Wimbledon.

You want British tennis to do well? Go along and cheer, go to the qualifying events of the likes of Eastbourne, Ilkley and Wimbledon. The stars of tomorrow are there and it is not difficult to access any of those qualifying tournaments.

There are a host of youngsters as well who have promising careers ahead of them. Meanwhile, Norrie, Evans and Watson are obviously fantastic players. The results will come for them and I'll seldom write a more confident sentence than this.

Friend of the show Liam Broady is returning to fitness and is set to play Wimbledon after receiving a Wild Card

In the meantime, please do not be so eager to carve the gravestone of British tennis. Show support, and enjoy the sport. There are few nicer sights in life than a grass court tournament with a British player fighting away. Don't make the narrative 'why aren't we doing better' and instead 'this has exciting potential.' Let the excitement, fun and passion flow because otherwise why are we even watching the sport?

Murray was a ridiculous talent, yes, but his legacy should be one of promise, with the knowledge that the very peaks of the sport can be conquered. It should not one of burden whereby failure is not immediately producing another one of the greatest players of their generation.

Tennis is fun. British players are great to watch - just remember to smile.


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