Mixed singles tennis league is set to court controversy

Mixed singles tennis league is set to court controversy

A SINGLES tennis competition for adults is coming to town. But unlike the usual club ‘ladders’, the Local Tennis Leagues features men and women playing against each other.

The format is set to revive memories of the controversial ‘Battle of the Sexes’ when retired men’s pro Bobby Riggs challenged Billie Jean King to a game in 1973.

The league is affiliated to the Lawn Tennis Association, the sport’s governing body, and recognised by the Tennis Foundation, a charity set up by the LTA to promote grass-roots tennis.

People can play on any court of their choice, though the primary venue is the four Racecourse sportsground courts on New Wharf Road.

Applicants are organised into groups of up to eight people of a similar standard. An online questionnaire assesses ability so you only play against those of a roughly similar standard.

The players arrange their own three-set matches against all other members of the group. The winner is promoted to the group above.

Local Tennis Leagues Ltd was founded by two journalists, Sally Kinnes and Nigel Billen, a former editor of Ace tennis magazine.

‘The idea for a tennis league in a local park began as a way of improving our own game,’ says Sally. ‘We set up the first, fledgling league on Highbury Fields in May 2005.

‘It took off. Since then, many hundreds of people have taken part, made friends and improved their game.’

She adds: ‘We have found that although there are plenty of leagues and ladders in clubs if you seek them out, there is not always a regular league for those who play on local public courts.

‘Having one, we have discovered, helps build a sense of community, puts local players in touch with each other, and gives people a way of seeing themselves improve.’

There are now almost 200 Local Tennis Leagues across the UK, and Sally says: ‘With our newest league’s proud home in wonderful Tonbridge, we’re pretty excited to see even more people playing friendly, competitive tennis.’

Players who complete three matches by the midway point in the league receive a free gift.

Other benefits include entry into Wimbledon’s ballot and membership of British Tennis.

Entry costs £18 and the deadline for applying is Monday (May 21). The league starts three days later and runs until July 18.

To book courts at the Racecourse sportsground, call 01732 369821. If you wish to join the league visit www.localtennisleagues.com/tonbridge

PICTURE: SKIRT THE ISSUE: Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs

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