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Optimism for Scottish tennis after Davis Cup success

The sell-out Davis Cup tie in Glasgow earlier this month is just the tip of the iceberg for tennis in Scotland, with participation figures on the rise and millions invested into facilities.

Tickets for the three-day event in Glasgow on March 6-8 sold out in ten minutes as Andy Murray returned to play in his native Scotland for the first time since winning Wimbledon in July 2013.

Murray described the atmosphere at the Emirates Arena as “one of the most special atmospheres I’ve ever played in” as Great Britain defeated USA 3-1 to secure a quarter-final clash at home to France in July.

“What we had to offer was a world-class event within a world-class venue, roared on by a sell-out, world class audience,” said Tennis Scotland CEO David Marshall. “It really was an unbelievable atmosphere and again demonstrated that the Davis Cup and Scotland is a fabulous fit. The fact that we won just put the icing on a fantastic event.”

There are four or five venues in the running to host the next tie in July, but Tennis Scotland hopes the legacy of the event in Glasgow will be evident long after Murray has hung up his racket.

In the lead-up to the event, Tennis Scotland and Glasgow Sport, in association with the LTA and the Tennis Foundation, trained 63 primary school teachers from 26 schools to deliver a six-week programme, while 10 secondary teachers were also trained to deliver tennis in PE lessons.

“The newly trained teachers used their new skills during four days of Highland Spring Mini Tennis festivals, at both local Community Indoor Tennis Centres and the Emirates Arena,” explains Marshall. “The festivals were attended by more than 2,000 youngsters from 38 primary schools, who were all directed to Places to Play and programmes throughout the city and received tickets to attend the Davis Cup.

“In addition, 30 sport leader students were trained up to be tennis leaders from two secondary schools, as were 20 Glasgow Life Coach Core Apprentices, half a dozen of whom have been identified to progress to the Level 1 UKCC coach qualification.”

Tennis Scotland has reported a 51% increase in the number of members of Scottish registered tennis venues over the past five years, while the recent funding partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association puts Scottish tennis in a strong position.

In December the LTA and Tennis Scotland announced a four-year funding partnership, replacing the previous year-on-year arrangement.  The agreement with the LTA will see £3.3 million invested in Scottish tennis between 2015 and 2018, mirroring the four-year £5.8 million investment made by sportscotland in 2013.

“In response to the confidence shown in Tennis Scotland by our key partners, the Board commissioned a full and comprehensive review of all aspects of our performance operations, with a revised strategy scheduled to be presented to the Board in a few weeks’ time,” said Marshall.

“The review will ensure our resources are better aligned with our colleagues at the LTA to support long term player development and give Scotland the best chance of continuing to produce world class talent such as Andy Murray and our current International Player of the Year, Gordon Reid.”

In the past two years more than £4.5 million has been invested in improving facilities across Scotland as well as offering training and equipment in schools, something Marshall is hoping to continue to build on.

“Since January 2013 more than £4.5 million has been invested in tennis projects that have been either completed or are committed to,” says Marshall. “That represents over 30 initiatives and more than 70 new courts, in addition to those that have been refurbished, many with floodlights. This has afforded thousands of people the opportunity to play tennis at a local level for the first time.

“2,169 schools across Scotland have received teacher training and tennis equipment packs to provide for continued delivery of tennis during curricular and extra-curricular hours.

“While we would, of course, like to see more indoor tennis projects completed in Scotland, we also have to recognise that securing multi-million pound partner funding during the recent recession has been a challenge that is not restricted to tennis.  Tennis Scotland is in discussion with partners in St Andrews, Inverness, Edinburgh, Galashiels and Dumfries to look at the feasibility of potential new indoor facilities and other indoor projects such as Gleneagles are already confirmed.”