LTA Makes Surprise Hire For Interim Performance Director

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Copyright © 2015. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.

Michael Downey, the Lawn Tennis Association’s chief executive, took a gamble that left him open to as much criticism as anything his much pilloried predecessor Roger Draper managed by appointing Britain’s former cycling supremo Peter Keen as Interim Performance Director.

Keen, who admits his knowledge of tennis is negligible, succeeds the hugely respected Bob Brett who resigned from the LTA at the end of July.  The Australian who coached Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic and most recently former US Open champion Marin Cilic, did not feel suited to a job that was largely office-based.

“Am I a tennis expert?” asked Keen who was also Head of Performance, and then Performance Director of UK Sport in the build up to the 2012 Olympics in London that resulted in Britain’s best ever medal haul since World War Two. “Clearly not. But I think the things I do understand can complement what is already here.”

The LTA employed a firm of expensive professional headhunters and also co-opted former British no.1 Tim Henman, currently a leading voice in the All England Club’s leadership, to target the right man to succeed Brett, who’s role was officially termed Director of Player Development.

However Downey has called off the search for the time being, giving Keen the job on an interim basis until the end of the Rio Olympics in just under a year’s time.  He maintains that many potential candidates are currently in jobs it would be wrong to abandon.

However experienced LTA observers believe this is merely a ploy to give Keen an extended opportunity to show how he is suited to working in a high profile post in a tennis environment. He has been an advisor at the LTA since January but admitted: “I don’t think it’s a position that needs huge amounts of tennis knowledge and expertise, because that’s all here already.

“The gaps that I can help fill are around culture, they’re around trying to create a much more integrated way of looking at high performance. And also some of the different thinking that exists in other sports.”

British tennis has not had a full-time Performance Director by name since Steve Martens left for a job in Belgian football four years ago. Downey, who was recruited from Tennis Canada to succeed Draper in 2013.

Speaking of the surprising choice of a man better versed with the workings of a bicycle than swinging a tennis racket, Downey insisted: “It is a fact that 40 per cent of the Performance Directors working in Britain at the moment started in a different sport. However Peter is not coming in here with no knowledge of the LTA, he has been helping us for nine months.”

Copyright © 2015. No duplication is permitted without permission from Bob Larson Tennis.