'Save our courts and give players chance to shine like Emma Raducanu'

Shropshire Council is being urged to reinstate tennis courts at Shirehall and give youngsters a chance to shine like US Open champion Emma Raducanu.

The Unison tennis courts have recently been used as a car park for Shropshire Council staff
The Unison tennis courts have recently been used as a car park for Shropshire Council staff

Popularity of the sport is expected to continue to surge after the British teenager's win, and Shrewsbury Playing Fields Association is imploring the authority to sort out the concrete courts, which were being used as a temporary car park.

The council's permit to use the courts as a car park ran out in May this year, and they are currently fenced off and not prepared for tennis.

Now the playing fields association chairman David Kilby is urging the council to retain the courts to encourage Salopians to pick up a racquet.

The council was in need of the extra parking before the pandemic, but with remote working increasingly becoming the norm, the association is hopeful the courts can be kept.

Mr Kilby, a former tennis umpire who once officiated former British number one Tim Henman on his way to national championships glory in Nottingham, has written to the council to ask for clarity on the situation.

"They haven't responded to my concerns," he said. "This time last year, the LTA showed an upward trend in people playing tennis. It was quite a significant increase. Now you would have thought it would continue. We are at risk of losing a lot of courts in Shropshire."

According to the LTA, the number of people playing tennis rose sharply when lockdown restrictions were eased last year. Court bookings in parks and public spaces bounced up 372 percent in the UK last summer. The highest demand came on June 14, 2020, when there were more than 26,000 bookings.

If the Unison courts are lost, that will be 23 courts to have either been lost or put under threat in recent years.

On Raducanu's success, and whether her win will get more people playing the game, Mr Kilby said: "I watched her at Wimbledon and thought she was a proper player. She's just kept winning. It is so inspirational. Hopefully it will encourage a lot more players."

Shropshire Council has been contacted for a comment.

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