An Interview With John Lloyd

Posted on: 27 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Great Britain's Davis Cup captain and BBC Sport commentator John Lloyd takes time out from Wimbledon to talk to 50connect.

Former British tennis number one John Lloyd believes this year’s Wimbledon championship has been the best in recent years.

The 53-year-old is currently commentating on matches for BBC Sport but took time out to talk to 50connect about Wimbledon, his memories from when he was on centre court, and the huge changes he has witnessed to professional tennis.

Despite moving to the US, Lloyd was appointed Great Britain’s Davis Cup captain last year and has been casting his eye over the British tennis circuit in recent months.

One player who has come to the fore is qualifier Chris Eaton who reached the second round of Wimbledon.

The Guildford-born youngster, number 661 in the world, hit 26 aces and was not broken once in his first round win over Boris Pasanski but, his adventure ended with defeat to Dmitry Tursunov.

“It was a fabulous performance.  To be honest I didn’t know that much about him but I saw him last year a couple of times and he never looked like really breaking through the pack,” says Lloyd.

“I saw him at the qualifying and he was excellent and he carried it on to Wimbledon; it's good news.”

“What I like about him is his work ethic, he knows he’s going to maximise his ability. It’s too early to say yet what that will be but he definitely showed some big potential on this surface.”

“The big question is can he now go back to the small tournaments, where there will be 10 people watching and perform on different surfaces.”

“If he can step up a level, he’ll start moving up the rankings and then we’ll see, but it’s a great start for him.”

Elsewhere, men’s number three Novak Djokovic left the tournament early after a surprise defeat to Murat Safin at the second round stage, whilst women’s number three seed Maria Sharapova was dumped out at the same stage by Alla Kudryavtseva.

Lloyd admits he’s been surprised by the giant-killings.

“I was very surprised to see them both lose, really surprised.”

“Safin’s a dangerous guy but the way Djokovic has been playing this year I thought he’d be in the semi-finals for sure.”

“I picked Serena Williams to win the women’s tournament but I put down Sharapova as my third pick.  I’m very surprised she’s out, I couldn’t envision her losing this early.”

“There have been good matches, a lot of upsets and some good British performances.  It’s been a really good start, one of the best in recent times.”

LloydThe Davis Cup captain suffered from the pressure to perform at Wimbledon when he was playing, and admits if he had the chance, he’d love to turn back the hand of time.

“I’ve always had mixed memories of Wimbledon. I always found it very difficult to deal with the pressures of playing at Wimbledon and being the number one player from Britain."

“I won a couple of doubles titles and that was great but in the singles I never played to my potential, so I’ve always thought it would have been nice to have gone back and gone in there with more experience.”

“Now the players have a lot more help around them with their entourages and coaches.  We never really had any of that and you just dealt with it on your own.  It’s not an excuse but I think with a little bit of guidance I could have done a lot better.”

Lloyd admits that he couldn't help but let the off-court pressure affect him. 

“The pressure got to me but it doesn’t seem to be getting to Andy Murray and it didn’t get to Tim Henman.  What they did and do was use the tennis court as their refuge of getting away from the pressure.”

“It’s the offsite stuff that can really get to you.  They don’t have to deal with that, that’s all done for them.  In my day, half of my problem was trying to work out how I was going to manage to get 15, 20 or 30 tickets to my relatives to come and watch.  I know that sounds ridiculous but you’d be making phone calls all day, hustling other players to borrow tickets but literally that would take hours.”

“Now all that stuff is done for them.  Murray shows up, he’s practiced on the courts, his training is done, he’s ready and changed then boom he’s on court - it’s very different.”

However there is a unique pressure of being a British player.

"It’s something you just have to deal with from individual to individual and I didn’t deal with it well enough.  Tim did deal with it very well and Andy has done so far too - they’re both special players and I admire them for that."

“The media stuff is all controlled for them today too. In my day, you were asked to do press and you did press - it could take hours.”

“Now after the matches, Andy Murray is straight to the BBC for a 20-minute interview, then a few words with other press, and then he’s off into a car and gone.”

The media circus aside, Lloyd always enjoyed being at the top of his game.

“I’ve always had mixed memories but obviously I love the tournament and the excitement around it.  It was always great to be a big star when you walked through the gates. When people saw you and called your name, it got you going - it was a buzz, a great buzz.”

John Lloyd as coachLloyd has witnessed huge changes in professional tennis over the last four decades, but thinks that certain aspects were better when he was a professional.  

“There is only one thing I would say that is really different which I preferred - and it’s not the money.  We certainly didn’t make as much money as these guys, but I think we had more fun.”

“We didn’t have the entourages they do now.  Instead, all the players just hung out together so there was more camaraderie and more things to do off court, whereas now most of the top players are isolated from that.”

“They have their group and that’s where they stay. The agents, the coach, the physiotherapist - that didn’t exist in our day.  If you lost in the first round or second round, most of the guys would be trying to go out that night and see if they could get lucky.”

“That doesn’t really exist nowadays as it’s a business at the top - but that part of it I wouldn’t change a bit.”

Asked for his Wimbledon tip for the men’s competition, there’s only one man to beat, according to Lloyd.

“Roger Federer. He’s been sensational on grass and he’s won the last five times. Yes, Rafael Nadal is getting closer to him but I don’t think he’s got enough on Federer on grass."

“He’s a winning machine at Wimbledon and I can see him going all the way again.”

By Mark O'Haire

John Lloyd is a commentator and analyst at Wimbledon for BBC Sport and is also the current Davis Cup captain for Great Britain.

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