Tennis clubs in the district hope Emma Raducanu effect will inspire youngsters

Tennis clubs in North Kirklees have hailed the success of Emma Raducanu at last month’s US Open as a great opportunity to grow the sport at a grass roots level.

Friday, 8th October 2021, 11:00 am
Emma Raducanu celebrates her US Open win in New York. Photo: Getty Images

The teenager’s remarkable triumph at Flushing Meadows was referred to by many as “The Fairytale of New York” - and now the hope among local clubs is that she will inspire a new generation of tennis players.

Andy Lucas, chairman of Liversedge Tennis Club, was, like millions around the country, watching as Emma became Britain’s first female grand slam champion in 44 years.

“It was really good for Channel 4 to put it on TV. That meant it was more widely accessible,” he said.

Ada Gale, aged nine, at Liversedge Tennis Club

“Emma did incredibly well.

“The ladies is really interesting at the moment.

“Men’s tennis has been dominated by Federer, Nadal and Djokovic for nearly 20 years.

“But once Serena stopped winning regularly, the women’s is such an open field.

Coach Elena Zagrebina leads a training session with young players at Liversedge Tennis Club

“It was a very interesting US Open.

“New Yorkers are fantastic boisterous people and, like the British, they love an underdog story, which is why this was such a fairytale.

“It was fascinating to see her game progress. From that first match on court 17 in front of two men and a dog, then she’s on the biggest court in the world under the lights.”

Liversedge Tennis Club, which was founded in 1895, currently has around 130 members across its men’s, women’s, juniors and social teams.

Youngsters taking part in a junior tournament at Mirfield Tennis Club

The Lawn Tennis Association is putting together a programme for clubs in the country which Andy hopes will attract more people to start playing the sport.

“We have lots of teenage boys who love to play,” he said.

“But I hope it inspires young girls. They have not had a great British tennis idol for a long time, whereas the men have had Murray, Henman and Rusedski.

“The big thing we see is people drop off playing tennis when they go to university or start a job. We hope this inspires people to dust off their tennis rackets.

“We have had a few people who have come back to tennis after a long time away due to the pandemic and an increased focus on health.

“Our programme has really expanded in the last five years.

“We have opened our club to non-members.

“We have a Russian coach. She has done a great job in growing the programme.

“That’s the key factor - the LTA has to make grass roots tennis more accessible so it doesn’t look like an elitist game for people with loads of money.

“They need to make it a sport for everybody - open it up to people who are from more socio-economic backgrounds.”

Mirfield Tennis Club has seen a late season surge following Emma’s US Open victory.

Chairman Andy O’Donnell said: “It’s all anyone is talking about at the moment, how special she has been.

"People have carried on playing through August and September, so we’re having a later season with lots of people using the facilities. Long may it continue.

“The LTA have launched an initiative making Emma a youth ambassador. We are going to tap into that to try and attract young players to come down to the club and use the facilities.”

Andy, who has been playing on the courts for 40 years, says the club benefitted from tennis being one of the first sports to be allowed to resume following lockdown.

“The club has gone from strength to strength,” he said.

“I remember when we only had 13 members, now we have 250. The growth has been phenomenal.”

Andy said the club, which dates back to 1880, has a healthy junior section with a coach who specialises in training young players.

“We take our position in the community very seriously,” he said. “We encourage all levels.

"We are a social club. We have absolute beginners through to very established players. Everybody is welcome.”

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