O’Brien needs time to improve in rankings, insists Becker

SIX-TIME grand slam champion Boris Becker has called on an expectant British tennis public to be patient with Hessle’s Katie O’Brien.

O’Brien, 24, tore muscles in her shoulder late last year and was forced to sit out the Delhi Commonwealth Games but after returning to the world’s top 100 in December, Becker is convinced the Briton is nearly back to her best.

Becker, the youngest winner at Wimbledon when he landed the title aged 17 in 1985, has described Britain’s fans as the most demanding in world tennis.

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The wait for a grand slam champion continues and with nearly £40m being invested into British tennis each year, a Wimbledon champion is the minimum the public expects.

But Becker is convinced outside of Andy Murray, it is Britain’s women and not the men who are more likely to rise up the international rankings in 2011.

“Becoming a great player doesn’t happen overnight and not even over two or three years,” said Becker, who is a Barclays Ball Kid ambassador, working with 2,500 youngsters in 2011 ahead of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals later this year.

“It takes a lot more time and several years but in this country everyone is too quick to jump on British players and build the pressure up too early.

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“Becoming a great player is a long and drawn out process but everyone jumps on these guys early whether they win a couple of games or lose a couple of games.

“I understand that Britain has a great history of tennis with the likes of Fred Perry and I understand the desire to get back up to that level but you need to give players time to develop.”

Becker believes the new breed of British women – Heather Watson, Jocelyn Rae and Laura Robson – has created a new feel-good factor in this country.

And Becker, who has landed 15 career doubles titles, is backing O’Brien to play a big role in the British women’s revolution.

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“Britain has had a bit more success in the women’s game in producing singles players and it is perhaps a better opportunity for girls to break into the top 100,” added Becker, who is helping to drive sign-up for the Leeds regional Barclays Ball Kid trial at the John Charles Centre for Sport this Saturday.

“You can see what success Laura Robson has had early on and she is fast becoming a household name in Britain and there is a chance for Katie O’Brien to keep improving and to follow in her footsteps.

“These girls need to perhaps follow her lead and build on Laura Robson’s early success and use it to propel them forward.”

To become a Barclays Ball Kid at the 2011 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals book a place now at barclaysballkids.com. The Leeds Regional Trial takes place at John Charles Centre for Sport on Saturday, March 12.