Excitement builds for Nature Valley Open as city prepares for big summer of sport

The team from Nottingham Tennis Centre with the ball crew

Preparations for one of Nottingham’s biggest sports events got underway today (Thurs) at the Nottingham Tennis Centre where in just under a month’s time some of the world’s leading tennis players will converge on the city for the fifth Nature Valley Open.

The tournament opens on 8 June and this year’s line-up looks to be one of the strongest in recent times. Women’s world No. 10 and defending champion Ashleigh Barty has already been confirmed along with British No.1 and Fed Cup heroine Johanna Konta, with more exciting names expected when the men’s and doubles entry lists are confirmed in the next two weeks.

The ball crew for this year’s event, drawn from schools across Nottingham, were put through their paces on court with some of the city’s leading young players and local students to celebrate the tournament’s place in the city’s sporting calendar.

The Nature Valley Open is part of a huge summer of sport in Nottingham, which also includes Pakistan taking on England in a One-Day International and ICC Cricket World Cup fixtures at Trent Bridge in May and the Accenture World Triathlon Mixed Relay in the city centre on 15 June.

Rebecca James, Tournament Director said: “The Nature Valley Open is going to be part of a fantastic summer of sport in the city. It’s a huge event in the region’s sporting calendar and a real showcase for tennis in the city and the East Midlands. We’re looking forward to welcoming some of the world’s best in the first major event of the grass court tennis season.

James, who was also Tournament Director for Great Britain’s successful historic home Fed Cup ties this year including their recent victory at the Copper Box Arena against Kazakhstan, added:  “We’re delighted to have another great line-up this year to mark the fifth anniversary of the WTA event. With Johanna Konta confirmed to come back for the fifth time and the last two champions in Ashleigh Barty and Donna Vekic also competing, there’ll be plenty of world-class tennis for fans to enjoy. It is a fantastic opportunity for anyone to come and watch some great action on their doorstep and experience the thrill of live tennis at a superb venue.”

The Nottingham Tennis Centre has hosted all four editions of the tournament, the first in 2015, and the Nottingham City Council-run venue also runs a range of programmes to get more people playing the sport. Over 8,000 school children from 52 schools across the city take part in their ‘Smashing Schools’ programme run alongside the LTA and the number of people taking part in the centre’s adult programme has doubled in the last two years.

Mike Wisner, Chief Operations Officer for Nottingham Tennis Centre said: “We’re proud to host the Nature Valley Open at the Nottingham Tennis Centre. It is a real celebration of tennis in the city. It has boosted our participation programmes and got more local people from across the city playing tennis which is great. To have some of the world’s best players here can really inspire people to pick up a racket and play.”

Jasper Riley, ball boy, aged 10 said: “The training has been going well. When we first started we didn’t really know what to do so it’s been quite hard work. You have to be fit and really quick to get the balls.  I’m looking forward to seeing Jo Konta because she’s done so well in the Fed Cup but there will be so many other amazing players here.”

Thomas Lightfoot, ball boy, aged 10, added: “I’ve never been part of the ball crew before, so it is going to be a brilliant experience. It’s also great way to make friends and feel part of a team. I play a lot of tennis and watch a lot of tennis so this is a perfect thing for me. I’d love to play in this tournament one day.”

Further announcements to the men’s and doubles line-ups are expected in the next two weeks.

With Centre Court tickets available from just £10 for children and £21 for adults, don’t miss this chance to see world-class tennis in Nottingham. For ticket purchases and more information about the Nature Valley Open, head to www.lta.org.uk/naturevalleyopen.

Follow @lta on Instagram, @LTA – Tennis for Britain on Facebook or @the_LTA on Twitter to keep up to date with the players’ journey to the grass courts of Nottingham this summer.

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