Hidden gem continues to serve up a community ace

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With the holy grail of tennis just around the corner, the sport is sure to enjoy an upturn in popularity with people wanting to play as they try to emulate the stars of the Wimbledon Championships.

But while the national tournament at the All-England Club might seem inaccessible to many, one local club is very much open to all and an example of how grassroots tennis is thriving.

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Welbeck Tennis Club, tucked away alongside Lady Margaret Hall just off the A60 between Worksop and Mansfield, has been described as one of the region’s hidden gems.

Its members, drawn from the Mansfield and Bolsover districts as well as Anston, Dinnington, Worksop and Creswell, play in the Sheffield and District and Nottinghamshire leagues.

The club is opening its doors to offer new and prospective members the opportunity to get on court at an open day on Sunday, from 11am to 5pm. People wanting to play should wear trainers.

Members will offer advice and visitors can have a go at the serve speed gun or take on the automatic ball-throwing machine, nicknamed the ‘red lobster.’

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Club secretary Vincent McGrath said: “Wimbledon creates a wave of interest in tennis and we are hoping to give as many people as possible an opportunity to take part. Anyone interested is urged to pop along on the day or get in touch to find out more.”  

The club, based on the Welbeck Estate, was formed by Brian Rhodes and his late wife, Rita, in 1992 at the request of William Parente, landowner of the estate. Mr Parente used the private courts on his estate but wanted to extend the opportunity to play social and competitive tennis to estate workers and local people.

He developed the facility to ensure a high standard of court was available and, with the support of Brian and Rita, built a further court so that the club could field full teams in the Sheffield and District and Nottinghamshire leagues.

Brian and Rita later added a pavilion following successful applications for grants and the club now has a membership of around 140.

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Its professional coach, Tim Taylor, who helps juniors and adults, has played alongside the world’s best, including Bjorn Borg.

There is a thriving junior section and Welbeck’s Friday night junior coaching sessions are aimed at building confidence, skills and having fun.

Vincent said: “We have a large contingent of our membership from those who may have played occasionally when they were younger or in public parks — never believing that one day they could return to a sport that offers so much enjoyment, and playing in a members’ club in such an outstanding natural environment.”

Anyone attending the open day will get a discount off membership fees. For those who can’t make the open day, Welbeck Tennis Club will be taking part in the Bassetlaw Games on Saturday, 16th July at Valley Comprehensive School, Worksop, from 10am until 4pm.

The event is part of Bassetlaw’s festival of sport to celebrate the Rio Olympics in August and anyone can go along and try tennis or take part in mini-tennis activities with the club.

Vincent said: “Both our adult and junior membership sections are thriving and this is a great opportunity for people to come along and join us, whether to get involved in the competitive side of the club or the social-playing sessions.

“Our junior membership starts from primary school age and our oldest playing members are into their 70s.”

For more information email welbecktennisclub@gmail.com or call Vincent McGrath on 07967 445231.