Globetrotter Simpson in the running for top award in home county
DESPITE spending most of his year in America, Chris Simpson still relishes coming home to represent his county.
And that is why the 20-year-old said he was honoured to be shortlisted in this year's Derbyshire Tennis awards.
He will be among hundreds of players and representatives from the county's tennis clubs at the fourth annual awards at Pride Park Stadium on Friday, February 8.
Two years ago, Simpson was awarded a tennis scholarship to attend Louisiana State University in a bid to improve his game.
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As part of a team of 11, the Littleover player takes part in team events between January and May, before entering individual competitions from August to December.
By the end of his first year at the university, he was ranked number one in doubles in his team and number three in singles.
During his second season, he has moved up to second in the singles and maintained his top position in the doubles.
At the same time, he represented Derbyshire during the AEGON Summer County Cup in Eastbourne, although the team were relegated from the top flight last year.
Simpson said he was delighted to be considered for a county award – one of three in line for the men's player of the year award.
He said: "I think it's an honour to still be seen as a Derbyshire player, even though I am not in the county most of the time.
"But I am still really close to my family and friends there and, last year, I really loved coming back to play for Derbyshire at Eastbourne – we had a good time.
"Just things like seeing Tom Rushby, my old coach and my friend, mean a lot to me.
"I always come back in the summer and at Christmas because I love coming home and seeing everybody.
"The only sad part is that I won't be able to come back for the awards themselves."
Simpson says he has seen a great improvement in his game during his time in America.
"It's been going really well – there is a lot of training but I'm getting a lot out of it," he said.
"There are 11 guys in our team but only six play, so there is an element of competition, which helps as well.
"But, most importantly, I have two great coaches and I get to play tennis every day. I couldn't ask for more."
Among those nominated for the girls' player of the year at the awards is Victoria Allen, 11, of Ashbourne.
For the past 12 months, the youngster has been training at the MyTennis Academy in Loughborough and has maintained the number one ranking for her age group across the UK.
Last year, she picked up the 12-and-under singles, 12-and-under doubles and 14-and-under singles at the Derbyshire County Closed Festival and, this week, is in London training at the National Tennis Centre.
Her mother, Anne, said: "She'll be really thrilled to have been shortlisted for an award and we're really chuffed for her.
"She's doing so well at the moment and she takes her success in her stride, because she's doing what she wants to do and what she ultimately sees her career as.
"But, when it comes to Derbyshire, she loves doing her bit to support the county and play whenever she can.
"In the past year, she's turned out for the 12-and-under and the 14-and-under county teams and started training for the 18-and-unders.
"I'm incredibly proud of her."
Ten awards will be presented on the night, for the best player, coach or team of the year in each category – volunteer, boys' junior player, girls' junior player, coach, men's player, women's player, veteran player, club player, club and the Derek Wardle Memorial Award.
Each winner will be chosen for their performance and commitment to the sport in Derbyshire in the past year.
Former British women's number one tennis player Annabel Croft will be the guest of honour.
She will speak at the event and present the trophies.
This year, the awards are being organised by Derbyshire Tennis Management Committee member Jenny Quibell, who has taken on the role from regular co-ordinator Rob Salmon.