Draper defends 'easy target' LTA
British tennis chief Roger Draper has hit back at critics of the Lawn Tennis Association, claiming the organisation is "an easy target" for people to "have a bit of a pop at".
Draper is under renewed pressure after a difficult week for the LTA, both on court and off. Last week Sport England announced the governing body of tennis in the UK is to have its funding cut by £530,000 after adult participation figures dropped by almost 30% in two years.
The British Davis Cup team, once again without Andy Murray, then suffered their first defeat under captain Leon Smith at the hands of Belgium at the weekend.
But Draper, speaking to Press Association Sport at the launch event for the AEGON Classic at the Edgbaston Priory Club, says the LTA is playing the long game and pointed to a rise in the number of competitive juniors and an increase in club membership as reasons to be cheerful about the future of British tennis.
"Rugby union, rugby league and cricket all took a cut in funding as well," Draper pointed out. "People like having a bit of a pop at the LTA. We're quite an easy target but we've just got to keep focused on the things we can control and keep working hard to try to improve the sport. There's so many good things going on in British tennis."
Draper was appointed LTA chief executive in 2006 and has overseen a tempestuous period in British tennis, with the rise of Andy Murray, the establishment of the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton and junior grand slam successes of Oliver Golding and Heather Watson tempered by the slide of the Davis and Fed Cup sides from the international stage and a lack of world class talent competing on the ATP and WTA tours despite heavy investment in coaches and facilities.
Not for the first time, there have been calls for Draper to consider his position following the recent bad headlines.
"The highs in sport are very high and the lows are very low," Draper admitted. "In my sort of job we've had quite a good year and my name has not really been mentioned much, when things are going well, and of course as soon as there's a bit of bad news, everyone wants to sack Roger Draper again.
"We're six years into a 10-year change programme in the sport, there are lots of positive things going on and you've got to keep your perspective but continue to roll your sleeves up. It's part of the journey in the sport. Whether it's football, rugby, cricket, tennis, everyone goes through their bumpy patches.
"I suppose the positive thing [about criticism] is that it takes heat away from everyone else and they can get on with working hard across British tennis.
"But you are a human being so of course it affects you when you see your name in the newspapers and everyone saying 'sack Roger Draper' and so on. So yes, it does affect you, but I'm really motivated and focused on helping to grow British tennis. I wouldn't be doing this job if I wasn't.
"It comes with the territory. When I was chief executive of Sport England we had similar issues with building Wembley, the Olympic bid and lots of different challenges. That comes with being chief executive and running a big business like British tennis."