Date published: 16/06/2015
British tennis ace Greg Rusedski joined star-struck children for a day of activities to help relaunch a tennis centre in Islington.
As the world's best players prepare to descend on Wimbledon at the end of the month, former British number one and US Open finalist, Greg Rusedski, took time out from a busy schedule to meet and offer expert advice to aspiring young tennis players from the local area.
The newly resurfaced Highbury Fields courts were reopened as part of the Lawn Tennis Association’s Great British Tennis Weekend.
Highbury Fields now boasts 11 high-quality tennis courts, including nine with floodlighting, thanks to an £80,000 grant from the Mayor of London’s Sports Facilities Fund, which is delivered by the Football Foundation, and a £90,000 grant from the LTA. Islington Council also contributed £50,000 towards the project.
As well as Greg Rusedski’s masterclasses, players of all abilities and ages had the chance to take part in TennisXpress (a fun way for adult beginners to get into the game),Cardio Tennis (sociable group fitness classes set on a tennis court), Mini-Tennis (a programme designed to get three to 10-year-olds involved in tennis) and casual match-play.
The Mayor of London’s Sports Facilities Fund is designed to increase participation levels in sport in London by providing funding for affordable, good quality facilities within local communities in every London borough. It has funded 105 projects across London, creating opportunities for more than 70,000 people to access facilities every week.
Mr Rusedski said: “I started in the park at the age of six and a half and I think it is so important for people to be able to play.
“This is the third weekend that the LTA have held this year and they have all been really fun. I have really enjoyed playing with everyone here at Highbury Fields. It was a pleasure to be invited.
“It is so important to have facilities like this in the local community. It will help develop the next generation of tennis champions but much more than that, it will give people the chance to play for fun. We know that not enough people are doing sports. Courts like these make it affordable. It is also vital that we get parents into sport. My father played tennis and that’s how I came to be playing the game at such a young age."
Islington has been a target area for the LTA, which aims to increase tennis participation among young people in deprived areas.
Cllr Janet Burgess, executive member for health and well being, said: “It has been a really exciting day and all of the people who came along seem to have really enjoyed it.
“We are very lucky to have been able to get the funding for these courts. Many people will be able to make use of them and we are extremely grateful.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “I’m delighted that my Sports Facilities Fund has been able to help to increase access to affordable sporting opportunities for hundreds of tennis fans in Islington. These improvements will help to keep local people fit and healthy and encourage more people to take part in sport.”