There was a time when the U.K. National Championships seemed too quaint an idea to include on the tennis calendar. Tim Henman pulled out, an appetite for the competition was on the wane and – 18 years ago this year – the LTA pulled the plug.
With tennis having gone away for months and with little hope of Grand Slams on the ATP or WTA calendar this year, plans are afoot to bring back The National Championships, an event to celebrate the best U.K. talent in mens, womens, juniors and wheelchair players sections of the game.
With the initial plan to stage the championships this coming Autumn, any decision will be beholden to the Coronavirus restrictions in place at that time, but an indoor tournament with the necessary distancing and testing regulations to make the environment a safe one is the idea.
The prospect of a fit-again Andy Murray facing off against some of the young pretenders after his throne such as Dan Evans or Kyle Edmund is mouthwatering.
An LTA statement announced the following
“The LTA is committed to ensuring that whatever events are staged, they take tennis to the widest possible audience and they focus on addressing the needs of our performance players. We will also ensure they are sustainable for the growth of tennis in the long term and finally, in line with our responsibilities as the governing body of our sport, they are compliant with all the protocols necessary for the current situation.”
Intriguing stuff, we’re sure you’ll agree. With any efforts to resume likely to be in some way part of an over-arching need to keep the grass roots of the sport healthy, the National Tennis Centre has re-opened.
First through its doors? A certain A. Murray. Having turned 33 just the other day, the former world number one, two-time Wimbledon winner and U.S. Open Grand Slam winner Murray was happy to enjoy a hit in Roehampton on Friday as he clocked up another year on the circuit, having now fully rehabilitated from injury.
With only the two players allowed on court, as well as one representative to assist them, Andy invited brother Jamie to share some court-time, with British tennis coach Jamie Delgado on hand to help in any way he could.
Murray’s career has already produced so many unforgettable moments that it’s almost churlish to demand more, but it would be great to see the Scotsman competing for the top prizes again and producing anticipatory shots like these on a regular basis:
From good news to bad news, as Egyptian player Youssef Hossam was banned from playing competitive tennis ever gain after been found guilty of match-fixing by the Tennis Integrity Unit. The 21-year-old player committed 21 breaches of the rules between 2015 and 2019.
Having once been as high as ranked the world number 291 two and a half years ago, Hossam was found to have fixed matches eight times, facilitated gambling half a dozen times and solicited others to lower their effort levels – corruption at its absolute worst in a sport which demands absolute transparency.
Hossam, who also failed to report illegal approaches to him, was banned for life in a statement made by the TIU:
“As a result of his conviction, Mr Hossam is now permanently excluded from competing in or attending any sanctioned tennis event organised or recognised by the governing bodies of the sport.”
What is perhaps the saddest thing of all is that Hossam’s older brother, Karim Hossam, was also banned from playing tennis for life due to a series match-fixing offences which were proven just two years ago.
With tennis now under the microscope more than ever, such transparency can only help the sportsbetting side of the game, crucial to any post-COVID-19 recovery in economic terms and avoiding the kind of ‘Kafelnikov’ accusations that could so mar the game for others for years to come.