The North East’s biggest tennis event of the year gets underway next week as the National Premier League (NPL) Finals are staged at Tennis World in Middlesbrough and David Lloyd Teesside in Stockton.
The team doubles event, which was first staged in 2002, takes place from Thursday 25 – Sunday 28 April. The NPL is the highest standard winter tennis league in Great Britain. Over 100 teams from across the country have qualified to take part in the Finals, and will be battling it out for a share of the £19,000 prize fund.
A number of world ranked players are set to compete as part of the event, with previous years having seen Wimbledon stars Jamie Murray, Jonny Marray and Pat Cash compete. Final team line ups for this year have yet to be confirmed, but leading British players Marcus Willis, Liam Broady, Lee Childs, Anna Smith and Mel South are all expected to be in action.
The tournament is being run by National Premier League Tennis, with support from Tees Valley Combined Authority and its destination marketing service Enjoy Tees Valley, Middlesbrough Council and the LTA, and backing from lead sponsors Beaumont Accountancy.
A new feature of the event this year is the addition of a women’s league for the first time, with the LTA working together with National Premier League Tennis to introduce this alongside the men’s competition.
The event promises to be a fantastic value day out, with tickets available in advance at www.nationalpremierleaguetennis.com or on the door for just £5 on Thursday and Friday, and £10 at the weekend, with concessions available. Play starts at 10am each day and runs through to 9pm each night.
Specialist seating has been put in place for the event, and with some world class, exciting tennis being anticipated across the four days, local sports fans are being encouraged to get along to watch what will be a feat of tennis.
Mike Dixon, Tournament Director for National Premier League Tennis, said: “We’re really excited to be staging this event in the North East. We want to encourage any local sports fans to come along and take the opportunity to enjoy the exciting team tennis format that will be on show – it’s a great value day out and you won’t be disappointed.
“I’d like to thank Tees Valley Combined Authority, Middlesbrough Council and the LTA for their support of the event, as well as both Tennis World and David Lloyd Teesside, our lead sponsors Beaumont Accountancy and also Dunlop Sports. We’re particularly pleased this year to have worked with the LTA to introduce the new women’s league for the first time, and to have Judy Murray visiting to help us launch that.”
Beyond the top level action, the LTA has put in place a community engagement programme around the event that will see over 200 school children take part in fun tennis activities at Tennis World on Wednesday. Not only will each student get to take away a goody bag and links to a range of local tennis opportunities, they will also get the chance to meet Judy Murray, who will spend time talking to pupils and getting involved with the activities.
Reflecting the LTA’s new vision to open tennis up to as many people as possible, those involved in the participation activity include an SEN school and a school catering for students with behavioural issues. Twenty visually impaired students will participate in the event activity, whilst seven volunteers from Tees Valley Sound Tennis, (North East Disability Sports Awards’ Outstanding Club of the Year 2018) will be supporting the delivery of activities.
Keith Carder, Head of Competitions at the LTA said: “This year’s National Premier League Tennis Finals once again promises to offer some fantastic entertainment for fans in the stands, and we’re delighted this year that includes the chance to watch the new women’s league. The doubles team format is something different to what many people will have seen before and creates excitement right around the venue. I’d encourage anyone in the area to take the chance to get along and watch some of the action.
“We want to use the event to engage the local community in tennis and so we are delighted to be able to deliver tennis activity to so many local children. Some of them may never have picked up a tennis racket before, but we want to show that tennis can truly be a sport for all”.
Tees Valley Combined Authority’s Chief Executive, Julie Gilhespie, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting this world-class tournament which has joined an impressive calendar of big-ticket events - sporting and otherwise - that will make Tees Valley the place to be this summer.
“Top-class tennis players and fans will be coming to the region, helping to boost tourism figures, showing we’re punching above our weight and attracting even more events like this. But it also demonstrates we’re just as focused on making the area the best it can be to live and visit.”
Ahead of hosting the tournament, Nigel Garton of Tennis World in Middlesbrough, said: “The NPL tennis finals at Tennis World is a great chance for the people of Middlesbrough and the surrounding area to come and see some top level tennis. The best players from the North East will be taking on leading teams from across the country, so please come along and show your support for us bringing this exciting event to our town.”
Alan Smith, Racquets Manager at David Lloyd Teesside, added: “After a long season of qualifying, tennis teams from across Britain will battle it out at the National Premier League finals to become National Champions. David Lloyd Teesside are honoured to be hosting such a great tennis event! Open to everyone, come along and enjoy, learn and watch how the event unravels!”
The competition will officially launch with a sold-out gala dinner at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium in Yarm on Wednesday 24 April, with Judy Murray and former footballer John Hartson attending as guest speakers.
To find out more about the National Premier League Tennis Finals or to purchase tickets visit www.nationalpremierleaguetennis.com