Brown: High cost holding back growth of local tennis
After helping a group of more than 50 children get a better understanding of the rudiments of the game, former Jamaica tennis star Dustin Brown believes the main thing holding back local players is the high cost associated with the game.
Brown, who lives in Germany, split two single-set exhibition games on Saturday at the Hilton Rose Hall in Montego Bay, losing 6-3 to Jamaica's top-ranked player Damion Johnson before beating Netherlands junior Davis Cup player Niels Van Dam as part of the coaching clinic, which was spearheaded by noted tennis instructor Kevin Simms and sponsored by the Hilton Rose Hall and Caribbean Producers Jamaica (CPJ).
"Clearly, there are a whole lot of talented players here in Jamaica. We all know that, but it's always going to be a difficult road for the sport here," he said.
"These kids have the talent, but I think the cost of the sport is a big issue. You might have a good coach and the right technique, but providing the tools and the racquets is a pretty expensive thing, and that is what I believe is the biggest problem facing the growth of tennis in Jamaica.
"It's easy playing soccer or some other sports because all you need really is somewhere to kick a ball or a field on which to run, but tennis is a lot different and is pretty expensive," said Brown.
"I think, in general, it is a most expensive sport and will be very difficult to overcome. That is Jamaica's greatest challenge. It's not talent and it's not the will to do well.
"And once that is taken care of, Jamaica would have taken the next big step, which is to have players highly rated, winning big tournaments, winning grand slams, and being a force in the Fed Cup, too," he reasoned.
Other sporting disciplines, he said, are relatively cheaper, and, therefore, do a much easier job attracting talented children. He urged Tennis Jamaica to continue pushing the limits to widen the pool of upcoming tennis stars in the island.
Next big star
"Jamaica does well in track and field, cricket, football, netball, and swimming. We could see the next big star being a tennis player," Brown said.
Brown is ranked 89th in the world and is coming off his best-ever period, which saw him defeating several top-class players, including a third-round win over Australian Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon.
In 2014, he also had big wins over current world number three Raphael Nadal and American John Isner to climb the rankings.
"I want to be able to give back something to the young ones in this sport. It was great coming out here, seeing the children loving the game. It is the start of something great. I look forward to being a part of it in the future," added Brown.
"I hope that this clinic motivates them. There are a number of good things that can come from the sport, whether going professional or to college. There are very talented kids on the island in every sport and specifically in tennis, so I hope they grasp this and keep working hard to succeed," he said.