World No 166 Alex demands more respect
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. email@example.com