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Why We Need to Do More at Grassroots Level to Train the Next Generation of Tennis Stars

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It was a bit of an adjustment arriving at Wimbledon as a commentator for the first time in 2008. I had to remind myself not to take my usual route through to the men's locker room, but head on towards the BBC Media Centre instead. After 13 years of playing at Wimbledon, it was also a great moment to reflect. I was able to look back at all the amazing opportunities I had, playing tennis around the world as a pro, and get a great new perspective on British tennis as a whole.

My tennis career would not have been possible without the support and encouragement I received as a kid, first from my parents, then with a scholarship to train as part of the Slater Squad, and finally as a tennis scholar at Reed's School in Surrey. Without this chance to train at a young age, I wouldn't have been able to develop my game and make it on the ATP circuit.

In this country we've got world-class athletes, as our success during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games showed us, and as we can see every year in our football, rugby and cricket teams. We want to see those world-class athletes in tennis but it won't happen without a lot more work where it all starts. The LTA are already investing a lot of funds into junior tennis, but we need to invest even more in the grassroots. If we want to produce top-class players, we've got to engage our kids at a young age, at primary schools around the country. We need to give six, seven, eight-year-olds the chance to pick up a tennis racket and get the best ones in for training. This way our standards will improve, reaching the top world positions that British footballers and cricketers have reached.

This Thursday I'm taking part in the Andrew Reed inaugural City Debate at the Guildhall in London, organised by my old school, Reed's, which was founded by Rev Dr Andrew Reed in 1813. Reed was a philanthropist and social reformer who addressed poverty and deprivation by giving orphaned children access to high quality education, and so investing in the younger generation. Reed's School continues to play their part in doing this via their tennis scholarship scheme, bursary awards and outreach programme, working with children's charities and state schools in deprived areas.

We should do the same in tennis across the nation - make sure all kids, no matter how rich or poor, living in the inner city or in deep rural locations, have access to good tennis courts and good coaching from as early an age as possible, so they can nurture real aspirations of becoming tennis stars of the future.

Tim Henman will be taking part in the Andrew Reed Inaugural City Debate at the Guildhall on Thursday 6 February: www.andrewreeddebate.org

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