Ipswich: Town serves up bid to find next Andy Murray

IPSWICH: Could a new link-up between the town and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) unearth the next Andy Murray or Sue Barker?

That’s the question being asked after the LTA gave a grant of nearly �150,000 to rebuild the tennis courts in Christchurch Park – and develop a coaching programme to bring out the best in talented players.

The move has the backing of Britain’s number one female tennis player, Ipswich-based Elena Baltacha, who has promised to help with coaching later in the summer.

Elena is patron of the Tennis in the Park project, a partnership between the borough council and Ipswich Sports Club.

It is the success of a pilot scheme that has led to a �142,500 grant from the LTA, with support from Sport England, to re-build the park’s courts and develop a comprehensive coaching programme.

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Their main aim is to encourage more people to take up tennis for fun – but there is also the hope coaches could identify a potential new star like Andy Murray or Tim Henman.

The council and sports club are to work together on the community programme for players of all levels and the new-look five courts will also be available for free casual use.

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The Ark pavilion nearby will be developed as a specialist tennis facility.

Inga Lockington, who is responsible for parks at the borough, said: “This is fantastic news and will not only provide a platform for emerging tennis talent in Ipswich, but also represents a major investment in Christchurch Park, currently bidding for its fourth consecutive Green Flag.”

Her colleague Andrew Cann, who is responsible for sport, added: “We are very grateful to our partners, Ipswich Sports Club and the Lawn Tennis Association, for their commitment.

“The Ipswich Tennis in the Park scheme is one of dozens across the country selected by the LTA for further development.”

Paul Sheldrake, from Ipswich Sports Club, said: “This is great news for tennis in Ipswich and tennis at the Ipswich Sports Club.

“This huge LTA investment will ensure that our new tennis community programme will continue to develop and grow, to encourage many more people to take up the game.

“I am looking forward to seeing many new faces to join us for the free and small-fee tennis coaching programmes that we offer.”

Work is scheduled to start by the end of the month and set for completion in time for the Easter holidays.

Roger Draper, chief executive of the LTA, said: “This investment is an important part of our work to help more people play tennis, and stay in the game.

“It’s great to see Ipswich Borough Council promoting and supporting tennis so much as a local authority that recognises the lifelong health benefits of a sport for all ages, and all parts of the community.”

n Will the new courts encourage your family to take up tennis? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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