We caught up with Mark Lewis, Competitions & Events Manager for Tennis Wales, to find out more of their plans now that restrictions have been lifted and what's in store for Local Tennis Leagues...
1. Are you able to share the latest update between Tennis Wales and the government for anyone who hasn't heard the news?
Following our ongoing dialogue with Welsh Government over the past few months, it was announced last Friday 19th June that outdoor tennis courts would be able to re-open and the sport able to resume, subject to certain restrictions, from Monday 22nd June.
Tennis Wales and the LTA have published detailed guidance for venues, coaches and players, so that tennis in Wales is able to safely resume. The guidelines are accessible online via the LTA’s dedicated coronavirus advice page and also on the Tennis Wales website. This is positive news for tennis in Wales, and Tennis Wales and the LTA look forward to continuing to work with all involved in the sport to open it up to more people following safe resumption of tennis activity.
2. Do you know what will happen first once the lockdown is relieved for Tennis Wales? Any specific tournaments or actions taking place?
We have worked closely with our tennis venues and local authorities during lockdown to put in plan, support packages, signage and guidance so that from this week they are in the best position possible to open safely with online court booking available where possible. Now tennis is back we are focusing on supporting our tennis venues and stakeholders getting back on court with their families as well as supporting our coaching workforce who have been hit hard during this time.
3. How have you been coping during this time and what have you planned for when restrictions are lifted?
As a team we have all become experts on Zoom Conference calls (!), delivering a number of Webinars and Q&A sessions to venues, coaches, officials, CITCs and Local Authority contacts to keep everyone as up to date as possible as there were a lot of questions out there in regards to when tennis could resume and what it would look like when it does. This communication has been really well received and has been a fantastic opportunity for stakeholders to ask each other questions and learn from each other in these testing times.
We plan to join England and Scotland in starting LTA Box Leagues as well as re-launching Local Tennis Leagues, initially in Cardiff, in the first instance. Furthermore, we are working closely with our local referee’s and organisers to ensure there is local one-day competition opportunities throughout the Summer Holidays for players to access if we are able to do so through our regular liaison with the LTA Competitions team.
4. What are you looking forward to the most when you can get out and play again?
I’m sure I speak for many parents in that I’m looking forward to getting back on court with my children and seeing members of my local venue again from a safe distance of course! It’s been such a tough time for tennis on the whole and here in Wales we have seen a number of high-profile competitions and events sadly cancelled due to the pandemic. I feel this situation has brought everyone closer together in the tennis community and it will just be fantastic to look to the future as there are many areas within Welsh tennis to be optimistic about, be it our performance players’ success, developing tennis park sites across the country, the first Padel court in Wales being finished and delivering our new strategy in-line with Sport Wales and the LTA.
5. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our welsh players in particular that they may find useful?
Tennis Wales are speaking regularly with the LTA on Local Tennis Leagues and how it looks for us here in Wales. Our Cardiff league has been running successfully for a number of years prior to Covid-19 so our plan will be to re-start this league as soon as we are able to do so before looking at other areas of the country. It is a really exciting time to be involved in tennis in Wales with a new CEO and structure with a clear vision and strategy to make it relevant, accessible, welcoming and enjoyable across Wales.