In the wake of Andy Murray’s emergence on the world scene Impact caught up with Annabel Watson and Dave Supperstone, two of the University of Nottingham’s bright young tennis stars, to talk about accessibility to tennis at the university.
How did you first get involved in tennis?
Annabel Watson: My parents encouraged me to play tennis from a young age. I was lucky in that the prep school I went to had excellent sporting facilities, and at the time one of the top coaches in the country was there looking to coach young players. He took me on.
Dave Supperstone: I started by playing Short Tennis when I was four at my local tennis club. When I was 8, I made the transition to full-sized courts and my development went on from there.
How accessible and affordable do you think tennis is for an emerging young player?
D: Well, there are several schemes in Nottingham which offer cheap ‘pay and play’ rates. But it’s difficult to progress without paying for coaching sessions and being a member of a tennis club to practice your game and work on fitness. Also the weather in Britain is against us, forcing young players to practice on the more expensive indoor courts.
A: Tennis is an expensive sport and I think this is an aspect that prevents more people from becoming involved in it. Here at Nottingham the athletic union is sponsored by KPMG and the Ladies’ tennis first team is grateful to be sponsored by the house-building company Redrow. Their funding has been very useful to us this year.
Is it fair to label tennis ‘a game for the elite’?
D: I think it is still possible to succeed in the sport if you don’t have a lot of money. Other factors can work in your favour like your being scouted or receiving sponsorship, then you can make it. The LTA [Lawn Tennis Association] invests money in top young players and this is a route into professional tennis that can be achieved by anyone, regardless of background. But, it is an expensive sport.
A: Tennis has traditionally been viewed as a game exclusively for the elite but through government funding progress has been made in spreading the popularity of the sport through all classes of society.
How do you rate the tennis facilities at this university?
A: Here at Nottingham we are lucky to have numerous tennis centres, which have agreements with the university allowing students to use their facilities. The courts on University Park campus are not of a very high standard but the Nottingham Indoor Centre nearby has excellent facilities.
D: Considering we are in the top division of the BUSA league, the university facilities could be better. This isn’t the fault of the university, though. In fact the arrangements it has set up with tennis centres allow us to play at relatively low cost.
What would you say were your strengths and weaknesses on the tennis court?
D: I’d say my big forehand. I’m also a good serve-volleyer. Weaknesses? (laughs) Well….if I had to say something I’d say my occasional lack of concentration and the fact that I relax too easily.
A: My strengths are my backhand and serve. I am not a natural vollier though and my anticipation is not as good as others. These are the areas that I am working on.
With the season underway, how is the team performing and what are your hopes for the remainder of the season?
A: The team has performed well so far. We are playing at a high level each week so it’s constantly challenging. We expect to retain our place in the Premier league.
D: It’s been tough. Some of our opponents have recruited well over the summer but we still hope to retain our top flight status.