SOME of the best tennis players in Britain are coming to Sunderland next month in a major national event at the Virgin Active Wearside club in Doxford Park.
The National Premier Tennis finals – the country’s biggest indoor men’s doubles tennis competition – is held at the former Health and Racquets club from April 11-15.
Leading doubles player Dan Evans – Britain’s number four, who has caught the eye in the Davis Cup – leads the way, while Britain’s top junior, Liam Broady, is also set to play.
Tournament director Mike Dixon, who first launched this event in the North East 13 years ago, said: “It’s great to be bringing the event back home, as it were, and it would be nice to think that it might prove so popular with tennis fans up here that we could make the case for bringing it back to Sunderland year after year.
“The only way to see tennis of this calibre is to travel down to Wimbledon or Queen’s, so it’s a big chance for the region to come and watch tennis being played at a very high level.”
The event will involve 14 teams – including the Sunderland team based at Doxford – who have won their way through to the finals.
There are four men per team, so two doubles games are played and if there is a tie, then a shoot-out is required.
Dixon is hoping the knock-out competition catches the imagination of the North East public.
He said: “All the teams play in different colours, so it’s going to be an attractive event visually, and there will be a 500-seater grandstand so spectators are right next to the action.
“In terms of watching top level sport, entry is very cheap with concessions made for kids, so we really do hope that people will come and see and enjoy the competition between some very talented tennis players.”
David Boddy, racquets manager at Virgin Active in Sunderland is hoping that not only will the event inspire young players in the region but that the Sunderland team can lead by example.
He said: “As hosts, we could have had a bye into the final, but we went through the early rounds because I thought it was important that we were in the finals by right.
“It’s fantastic to be able see this standard of tennis locally and it will show people in Sunderland exactly what’s out there. We’ve got two coaches from the centre involved in the team – Ainsley Kershaw and Adam Barratclough – and we’re very excited about it.
“We can select a squad of six and select four on the day and we’re looking at just who we might involve, there might be a surprise or two.
“But for our first game (on Thursday, April 12 at 6pm) we want to get that stand full of people cheering for Wearside and Sunderland and really add to the atmosphere.”
Tickets start at £5 (concessions £3), rising to £10 for the final.
Anyone interested in more information or tickets should contact Virgin Active Wearside on 511 4400 or Mike Dixon on 07870 778490.