LTA reopens National Tennis Centre for elite training
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The LTA welcomed Britain’s elite players back to training today as the National Tennis Centre in London opened its doors for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown began in March.
Among the first to return to the courts this morning was Andy Murray, who was celebrating his birthday. Murray was joined at the NTC on the first day of operation by other leading British players, including his brother Jamie, British Women’s No.1 Johanna Konta and Fed Cup stars Harriet Dart and Katie Boulter.
Elite-specific protocols - different guidelines to recreational tennis
The reopening has been made possible following the publication on Wednesday of the Government’s guidance on the phased return of elite sport, which permitted elite training to resume in certain defined performance facilities and subject to strict guidelines. We are currently at Step One of what is a five step plan towards the resumption of elite sport, with this initial phase assisting elite sport organisations to deliver a safe return to organised training for its athletes and staff, while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Access to the facilities is being provided on a strictly controlled and limited basis, with a series of enhanced protocols that have been put in place by the LTA for anyone using the facility. For that reason, for professional athletes and their coaches, there are therefore a number of differences in comparison to what is currently permitted under guidelines for recreational play. For example, this includes special dispensation for the use of indoor courts not currently permitted elsewhere, and for a coach and two players to be on the same court – as long as social distancing is maintained at all times.
'One of the first sports to welcome elite athletes back to training'
Simon Timson, LTA Performance Director, said: “We’re delighted to be taking these first cautious first steps back onto court and toward our best players being able entertain tennis fans again.
“The LTA has taken all reasonable steps to create a controlled environment that is safe for our elite players and their personal coaches to work in, compliant with guidance set out by Government. I’d like to thank the NTC operations team and our Senior Performance staff for working around the clock over the last two days in order to enable us to be one of the first sports to welcome its elite athletes back to training.”
Over the past 12 months, the National Tennis Centre has been transformed as an elite training base, as well as a community tennis centre and a hub for innovation and development to benefit the sport throughout the country. Developments have included the installation of new world class court surfaces indoor and outdoor, with the Roehampton facility increasingly attracting Britain’s leading players to use as a regular training base.
What does the guidance on elite training say, and what will be next?
From very early on, the LTA has been involved in developing the Government guidance on the phased return of elite sport. This has been done through our Performance Director as one of a limited number of sports on UK Sport’s working group that has fed directly in to Government, and the LTA’s Chief Medical Officer, whose expertise has been utilised as part of a group with her counterparts from a small number of other leading sports to inform the approach. This has meant the LTA has been able to prepare for the return to training and act quickly to reopen the NTC for player use following the publication of the guidelines on Wednesday.
Step One of return to training can be described as a return to a level of organised individual programme training in a defined performance facility while adhering to the government social distancing advice. This might be individual training or groups of individual athletes training in the same facility/space but adhering to social distancing and other steps to minimise the spread of COVID-19. Under step one, travel to training venues is also permitted.
A move to Step Two of the phased return will be characterised by the allowance of a level of ‘social clustering’ within the training environment where small groups of athletes and staff will be able to interact in much closer contact. This will happen once the government has agreed to move to this step, following advice from PHE and medical experts that it is safe to do so.
For more details about the Government’s guidance on the return to elite training, click here.