SIX-TIME Grand Slam champion Boris Becker has called on an expectant British tennis public to be patient with Sheffield tennis youngster Anna Fitzpatrick.
The 21-year-old impressed Becker as she made a name for herself at Junior Wimbledon in 2007, before suffering a stress fracture in 2008 which also plagued much of her 2009 campaign – but the former world number one is convinced the Brit is nearly back to her best.
Becker, the youngest ever winner at Wimbledon when he landed the title aged 17 in 1985, has described Britain’s tennis fans as the world’s most demanding.
The wait for a Grand Slam champion continues and with nearly £40 million being invested into British tennis each year – a Wimbledon champion is the minimum the public expects.
But Becker is convinced outside of Andy Murray, its Britain’s women and not the men who are more likely to rise up the international rankings in 2011.
“Becoming a great player doesn’t happen overnight or over two or three years,” said Becker, who is helping to drive sign-up for the Leeds Regional Barclays Ball Kid trial at the John Charles Centre for Sport tomorrow.
“It takes a lot more time and several years but in this country everyone is too quick to jump on British players and build the pressure up too early – I feel for Anna.
“Becoming a great player is a long and drawn out process but everyone jumps on these guys and girls early whether they win a couple of games at Wimbledon or Junior Wimbledon or lose a couple of games.
“I understand Britain has a great history of tennis with the likes of Fred Perry and I understand the desire to get back up to that level but you need to give players like Anna time to develop.”
Becker believes the new breed of British women invading the game – Heather Watson, Jocelyn Rae, Fitzpatrick and Laura Robson – has created a new feel-good factor in this country.
And Becker, who has landed 15 career doubles titles, is backing Fitzpatrick to play a big role in the British women’s revolution.
“Britain has had a bit more success in the women’s game in producing singles players and it is perhaps a better opportunity for girls to break into the top 100,” added Becker, who is a Barclays Ball Kid ambassador, working with 2,500 youngsters in 2011 ahead of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals this year.
“You can see what success Laura Robson has had early on and she is fast becoming a household name in Britain and there is a chance for Anna to keep improving and to follow in her footsteps.
“These girls need to perhaps follow her lead and build on Laura’s early success and use it to propel them forward.
“They hopefully can all help each other build on some good ground work and take it to the next level.”
To become a Barclays Ball Kid at the 2011 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals book a place now at barclaysballkids.com. The Leeds Regional Trial takes place at John Charles Centre for Sport on Saturday.