6 June

Setting the pace... Why Leah is determined to get more women playing

Leah Hartshorne

Leah loves competition and since joining the Manchester Parks league a little over two years ago she has played nearly 50 matches. She explains how, in this time, she has tested herself both physically and psychologically and seen her game improve no end. Now she wants more women to follow her example

Until the age of 15, I played tennis up to county level, then I didn’t pick up a racket again until two and a half years ago when I stopped playing football competitively.

I had always wanted to play again but other commitments meant I couldn’t find the time. Now I wish I had never stopped playing!

When I did re-start, I went for lessons at Manchester Tennis Centre where I met my now-friend Rachel Butcher (a fellow Local Tennis League competitor) and she told me about the leagues. We have only met twice in the league and Rachel has won both times so I am looking forward to a re-match!

I enjoy singles so much as I love to test myself physically. I like to think of myself as an all-round sportswoman, so I move well around the court and as my opponents will vouch for, I never give up on any ball. I enjoy the fact that it’s only me who is in control of how the match proceeds and the internal psychological battle that often ensues.

My style of play is ‘definitely aggressive’ says my coach at my club. I probably go for winners too often which is possibly a fault in my game. I am too impatient. I always try to identify my opponent’s weaknesses at the start and then target these. A recent development which has really helped my game is that I am now able to aim my serve to force mistakes from my opponent and try to take control of the point.

Having played in the leagues for about 2 years now I have met the same faces on a few occasions and have some healthy rivalries. Some I have come out on top of, but others I have yet to beat…emphasis on the YET!

I have got a huge amount out of playing in these leagues. My game has improved no end. It's enjoyable, healthy competition and it's great match practice to take into club games. However the most valuable thing for me is that as a woman in her 30s there is so little other opportunity to play competitive singles at my level, which for me is a huge shame. I think that the leagues begin to address this but the LTA must go further to help support womens' singles. I am incredibly passionate about women in sport and competition.

JOIN the leagues, any ability level, any experience….I LOVE 'EM.

If you would like to join Leah on court in the Manchester Parks league, the next round starts on 20th June and is open for entries here