County players get the chance to see how they shape up at top event
DERBY will be the centre of attention next month when hundreds of junior tennis players arrive at the David Lloyd centre for its annual national tournament.
More than 100 places have already been taken up in the Winter Grade Three event, which will see youngsters under the age of eight to adults over 35 competing at the Pride Park gym from February 18.
The clubs hold the week-long tournament every year as part of its commitment to the national Lawn Tennis Association to develop junior talent.
Last year, 209 youngsters from across the country took part – with some travelling from as far afield as Cornwall to compete.
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Although predominantly a junior tournament, adults are also invited to compete in the men's singles, women's singles and over-35 men's singles.
But Dave Barnes, junior racquets manager at David Lloyd, says it will be a great opportunity for Derbyshire's youngsters to check out the rest of the UK competition.
He said: "This is one of those great weeks where you get to watch some fantastic tennis and, for the county's juniors, they get to play it in their own environment.
"We looked forward to watching the children we work with week in, week out having an opportunity to show off their talent and, at the same time, see what else is out there.
"Part of our performance programme is to hold one high-level tournament and, last year, we were pleased that, we had so many entries, we had to run some qualification events.
"I really hope we can equal the numbers of entries we had last year, if not better them. Places have been filling up and it's great that people are already so interested."
Barnes said among players expected to compete at this year's event were city junior and Tennis Europe star Sam Ferguson and his younger brother Matty.
He said: "We all know how, last year, Sam represented Great Britain across the world and his game is really coming on.
"He's hit here recently, so we're looking forward to him coming, along with Matty, who is among some strong under-eight players we're working with at the moment.
"It's great to work with youngsters like him because you hope it's the start of another potential international player.
"Our job is to get these kids started on their path to full-time tennis and we are tasked with producing as many performance players as possible.
"So it will be interesting to see what they can both do over the course of the week.
"And, indeed, it will be exciting to see what effect this tournament has on the rest of their year and the rest of the other players' seasons too."
This year, Barnes said the tournament was being sponsored by Derby lettings company Kingstead, whose director Mick Slater is interested in tennis.
Barnes said: "Mick's recently rejoined the club after his children spent some time here and it's great he wants to get involved with us.
"With his help, we should be able to run the tournament to the best of our abilities.
"But, overall, we're hoping for a really good complement of junior and adult players – we had about 30 of those last year.
"This is a pretty serious tournament and we're looking to welcoming the talent we hope it will attract."