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British pair open new community courts


 

Originally published on: 11/10/13 00:00

The players entertained the kids with the first official serve of the newly refurbished courts before hosting a training session aimed at getting these local tennis fans hitting balls.

The revamped surfaces, which are adorned with the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals paint and logos, offer the children an insight into what the professionals experience when playing.

“You’ve got the court colour, the branding on the courts, this is what we have on Tour, this is what we are used to,” Hutchins said. “To have the logos on the court makes it special, they’ve put so much thought into it and have tried to make it identical to the court at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

“There are a lot of kids here who know who won the event last year and who is playing this year so it makes them more aware of what they are trying to achieve which is being there at the tournament, not just as a fan but playing in 10 or 15 years’ time."

The kids also got a chance to touch the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals trophy, which both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have won in recent years – a moment Golding believes could inspire this generation of young tennis fans:

“It doesn’t really hit home until you actually get here,” said the 2011 US Open boys champion. “It’s brilliant coming here for this. I grew up playing in Richmond. My mum was part of the tennis club and I used to hang about just hitting the balls around.

“I think what [the centre and Barclays] are doing is brilliant. Definitely when I was a youngster having the opportunity to play on a court with the ATP backing would have inspired me, I think it’s really cool.”

Barclays helped revamp the courts as part of their Barclays Spaces for Sports programme, which aims to revitalise disadvantaged communities and tackle social issues. It also hopes to inspire a new generation of tennis players who will carry their interest back into schools and spread the message to friends.

To date Barclays have helped improve 200 sites around the country in areas where facilities are scarce and chances to play very limited. The aim is to get children interested in sport and learn life skills to use outside the court as well as in.

Haringey’s White Hart Lane courts were given a fresh lick of blue paint to mirror The O2 next month, which will see the world’s best eight players compete for the Tour title. The kids will see defending champion Novak Djokovic and world No.1 Rafael Nadal, who have both already booked their places in London, compete for the end-of-season prize.

This isn’t the end to the improvements in Haringey, however. After seven years of hard work and investment, tennis development officer Siwan Stephens wants the centre to go further, with a dome covering the outdoor courts a consideration:

“When the kids came back from holidays they were all excited. It makes you feel special, you know, having this as well as being associated with the ATP World Tour Finals," she said. “When we came here there was nothing in Haringey. Now there’s four clubs and they’re all linked to this club.

“Over the last seven years the LTA have invested about half-a-million pounds in Haringey as a whole. The council paid for the clubhouse and we’ve had these courts done. Having projects like this is breaking down people’s perceptions of tennis. It’s becoming less of an issue and more cool. I hardly ever hear ‘it’s not for me’ anymore. When I first started it was really hard to get kids to play in this part of the borough.

“Now we get 20 to 30 playing every week,” she added. “And we’ve got 100 regularly competing juniors, which is one of the highest in Middlesex.”

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