Scott's Blog: Tennis Opened Up

15/04/2019

| News

Welcome to the first of a series of regular updates into the work we are doing at the LTA to grow tennis in Britain and help it to thrive.

Tennis Opened Up 

We recently launched our new vision for tennis in Britain. The vision is simple – it’s just three words: Tennis Opened Up. What we mean by that is we want to break down barriers and change perceptions so that tennis in Britain is truly seen as a sport for all, wherever you live, whatever your background and no matter your ability or disability.

It’s something I am incredibly passionate about, and it’s why I took on this job. I’ve been involved in tennis my whole life and I certainly don’t know anyone who has a passion for it who doesn’t want to see the sport grow and succeed.  However research we commissioned last year told us that to those outside the sport, tennis is often seen as not for them, difficult to learn and expensive to play. So we are on a mission to open up our sport to new places and audiences and make it relevant, accessible, welcoming and enjoyable to anyone who has an interest – whether that’s picking up a racket, volunteering or watching. We developed our vision and strategy after speaking to hundreds of people involved in tennis up and down the country and I know it’s something we can all get behind.

A momentous Easter weekend for our Fed Cup team 

We have a momentous week ahead as our GB Fed Cup team prepare to take on Kazakhstan on Saturday and Sunday to determine which team will be promoted to World Group II next year. The Fed Cup is the world cup of women’s tennis, and if the team succeed it would take Great Britain to a level not played since 1993.

Last year we successfully bid to host the Fed Cup qualifying tie and back in February we staged the event in Bath which saw over 16,000 fans cheer on the GB team to phenomenal success as they came through the qualifying event without losing a rubber. Hosting the event in Bath was all about taking top level tennis to a new area of the country, to allow as many people as possible to experience the thrill of live tennis at affordable ticket prices and showcase the achievements of our women’s team.

The Play-Off tie at Hackney’s Copper Box Arena over Easter is no different. It will be the first ever Great Britain team tennis tie to be staged in East London and to announce the Copper Box on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as the venue for the tie I joined GB Fed Cup Captain Anne Keothavong on a visit to play tennis with pupils at Clapton Girls Academy – a school just down the road from where we are staging the tie – that has an award winning tennis programme supported by the LTA.  Anne herself grew up playing tennis on the courts at nearby Hackney Downs, and proved to be a real inspiration for the students.

That programme is just one of many examples as to how tennis can thrive in places people may not traditionally expect it to, and it was great to see that first hand in Hackney. The Fed Cup this weekend is about so much more than the matches seen on court.  With the support of the four local boroughs, the London Legacy Development Corporation and tennis venues across East London, nearly 10,000 local children are set to take part in tennis sessions in and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park before and after the tie.  We are supporting these sessions with a range of follow-on activity to help ensure the enthusiasm we generate during the event is translated into a long-term passion for tennis.

If you can’t join us at the Copper Box then live coverage of all the on-court action will be both on BT Sport and the LTA’s Facebook page.

Whether you will be there in person or following on TV or online, I hope you will join me in wishing Anne and the team the very best of luck!

Tennis returning to Scotland

The LTA’s track record of staging world-class events is something we are extremely proud of.  The focus can often be on the grass court season but we’ve already staged six international tennis events at indoor arenas across the country so far this year.

I’m excited to say that later today we’ll be announcing a further addition to the tennis calendar as we confirm professional tennis will be returning to Scotland once again in September this year.  The event forms part of what is a newly expanded calendar of professional tennis tournaments we are hosting in Britain this year, and will provide another opportunity to showcase tennis outside of the traditional summer grass court season.  It is also designed to support our 10-year performance strategy, launched last year, in aiding the development of British players by providing more opportunities for them to compete, earn world-ranking points and win prize money in this country.

We have been working closely with Jamie Murray on the event since last year. Jamie’s immense experience of the pro circuit means the event will provide a first class experience for both players and fans alike.

Over the past decade nearly two thirds of Davis Cup home ties have been staged in Glasgow and it has been home to some of our most spectacular memories, the most memorable of course with Leon, our Captain, and Andy, Jamie, Dan and Dom prevailing in the semi-final there on their way to winning the Davis Cup in 2015. Anyone who has been to Glasgow to watch these matches will testify to how passionate the fans there are about tennis, and I am delighted that alongside Glasgow Life, Glasgow City Council and Tennis Scotland we are able to stage this ATP Challenger in the city. 

And finally… are we really digging up clay courts just before the clay court season?

In short, yes – but for a very good reason…

You may have recently read in the news that we are replacing the clay courts at the National Tennis Centre and are wondering why this is happening now. These courts were sadly no longer in a state that could be purposefully played on by our elite players, and had not been used for some time.  We wanted to get work started on putting in new and better quality courts as soon as the weather permitted.

The renovation of the clay courts, which will see a new Italian clay surface installed to the same specification as the Monte Carlo Open, means they will be ready for 2020. We've worked with the coaching teams of players to book alternative facilities for this year to ensure there is no impact on their preperations for the clay court season.

These works are part of a wider renovation of the National Tennis Centre we are undertaking – more about this in a later blog.

I’m looking forward to updating you on a regular basis and if there is a topic you’d like me to cover please get in touch at info@lta.org.uk.

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