World No 166 Alex de­mands more re­spect

Daily Mail - - Wimbledon Countdown - by MIKE DICK­SON Ten­nis Cor­re­spon­dent

BRI­TAIN’S men usu­ally leave the stage t o Andy Mur­ray with­out wast­ing much time, but Alex Bog­danovic de­parted the AE­GON Cham­pi­onships with a the­atri­cal blast at author­ity yes­ter­day.

By the time de­fend­ing cham­pion Mur­ray be­gan tack­ling what proved an awk­ward opener on the Queen’s Club grass, his na­tional No 2 was an­nounc­ing his non-avail­abil­ity for next month’s Davis Cup tie at home to Turkey.

Af­ter ad­mirably qual­i­fy­ing for this week’s event, Bog­danovic was beaten 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 by out­stand­ing Bul­gar­ian prospect Grigor Dim­itrov. Mur­ray needed to save two set points against bi g-serv­ing Spa­niard I v an Navarro be­fore pre­vail­ing 7-6, 6-3 with even­tual ease.

In the sort of tragi-com­edy that is the spe­cial­ity of the home game, world No 166 Bog­danovic has de­cided to skip Bri­tain’s lat­est rel­e­ga­tion play-off in protest at the ‘dis­re­spect­ful’ way the Lawn Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion cut his fund­ing.

The re­sult is that he is un­likely to be handed a record ninth con­sec­u­tive sin­gles wild­card into Wim­ble­don, where his vain at­tempts at win­ning a round have had about as long a run as The Mouse­trap.

Bog­danovic’s re­fusal stems from the de­ci­sion taken in De­cem­ber to cut his an­nual fi­nan­cial sup­port from £15,000 to the stip­u­lated bare min­i­mum of £4,000. It was more the rea­sons given than the ac­tual cut which led to the walk­out of a player who re­mains undis­putably the sec­ond best fea­ture of an ex­traor­di­nar­ily bleak land­scape.

‘I had a meet­ing with Steve Martens (the LTA’s player di­rec­tor) and he ba­si­cally told me the rea­son was that I wasn’t work­ing hard enough over the whole year,’ said Bog­danovic, 26. ‘I just thought that was dis­re­spect­ful be­cause that’s un­true. He said my in­ten­sity wasn’t good enough and that hurt a lot be­cause I’ve been try­ing to give it my best shot for the last eight years.

‘If it was easy then ev­ery­one would be in the top 100. I found out they didn’t be­lieve in me any more. They ques­tioned my ef­forts and I have al­ways tried to do the best that I can.

‘I don’t think that’s right, es­pe­cially when he only saw me play two matches all year. When I told Leon (Smith, the new Davis Cup cap­tain) that I won’t be play­ing in this tie he was dis­ap­pointed. He told me that I wasn’t go­ing to get any wild­cards. That’s fine.’

In fact, Bog­danovic has lit­tle to com­plain about. The Wim­ble­don sin­gles wild­cards, com­bined with those for dou­bles, have alone brought him nearly £100,000 in earn­ings over the years. That is apart from priv­i­leged en­tries into other Bri­tish events, plus high­class coach­ing as­sis­tance from some of the best minds in the sport such as Brad Gil­bert.

Given the hor­ren­dous state of men’s ten­nis in Bri­tain, it is right that the LTA are try­ing to clamp down on ex­ces­sive gen­eros­ity, even though chief ex­ec­u­tive Roger Draper yes­ter­day re­ferred to the rank­ing cut-off point of 250 for the rec­om­men­da­tion of Wim­ble­don wild­cards, which Bog­danovic is well within.

The re­sult could be the low­est home rep­re­sen­ta­tion ever in the main draw at the All Eng­land Club a week on Mon­day, which will be a fair re­flec­tion of the cur­rent state of play.

The LTA are lucky that the Davis Cup match at Eastbourne will see Turkey with just one de­cent player — Marsel El­han, ranked 106. Their No 2, Ergun Zorlu, is so weak at 854 that even Bri­tain’s sec­ond string ought to be able to take care of him.

It will prob­a­bly do the player af­fec­tion­ately known as ‘Boggo’ some good to try to fight it out in the qual­i­fi­ca­tion rounds of tour­na­ments.

Mur­ray’s en­try af­ter a bye into the sec­ond round yes­ter­day saw him up against the portly Navarro, who dis­played an ac­cu­rate, well-dis­guised serve.

Mur­ray needed to save set points at 5-6 and 7-8 in the tie break, which were res­cued with glo­ri­ous pass­ing shots. He got two breaks in the sec­ond set, mak­ing i t an ex­cel­lent work­out ahead of fac­ing ei­ther Mardy Fish or San­ti­ago Gi­raldo to­mor­row. RAIN wiped out al­most the en­tire day’s play at t he AE­GON Clas­sic in Birm­ing­ham. That was to the lik­ing of Bri­tish No 1 Elena Bal­tacha, who spent the past three days re­cov­er­ing from heat­stroke suf­fered while win­ning last week’s tour­na­ment in Not­ting­ham. m.dick­son@dai­ly­

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