Courts Under Threat At Chiswick Tennis Club Where Andy Murray Once Played
Bid to replace fourteen grass courts with football pitch opposed by locals
A Chiswick tennis club where Wimbledon winner Andy Murray began his road to sporting glory is the subject of a controversial planning bid to replace fourteen grass tennis courts with a floodlit football pitch.
The plan, for the former Civil Service Sports Ground at Riverside Drive (now leased by Kings House School) has run into opposition with local tennis enthusiasts who say this would have a negative impact on sporting facilities in the borough.
As a sixteen-year old Andy Murray played on the grass courts in Chiswick as part of his first attempt to gain entry to the main Wimbledon draw. He won through three rounds of Wimbledon pre-qualifying in Chiswick before being defeated by Dave Sanger in the final qualifying round which preceded the main Wimbledon qualifying matches at Roehampton. The following year, Murray went on to win the US Junior Tennis Open.
The planning bid to axe fourteen of the sixteen grass courts and replace them with two of artificial grass, comes in the week that British tennis got its biggest boost in 77 years with Murray's Wimbledon win. Tennis clubs throughout the UK are hoping this will lead to a boom in funding for coaching young aspiring tennis stars.
Opponents of the plan say if it went ahead it could affect the prospects of other young players who want to play on grass courts.
If the fourteen grass courts were dug up the club would be left with three grass courts across the car park (which some say would not be viable due to the amount of wear they would get), four existing hard courts, plus the two proposed new artificial grass courts.
Former player Dave Sanger, who beat the young Murray in 2003 in Chiswick recalled playing at the then Civil Service Tennis Club; "I remember playing there for about 5 years and have some great memories of playing Andy Murray and Myles Maclagan ( now Laura Robson's coach) there. The courts were always the best grass courts I played on during the year, along with Roehampton.
"I hope you are able to save the courts as they must be the pride of the club and of Chiswick."
Members of the nearby Chiswick Poly Tennis on the University of Westminster Sports Ground transferred to the Civil Service Lawn Tennis Club when it closed in April this year.That club had lost members following the closure of its 10 grass courts and the CSLTC is currently the only club locally to offer grass court resources.
The planning application was the subject of a ‘call in’ by local councillor Gerald Mc Gregor at the Chiswick Area Forum meeting this week as councillors debated how best to use the space. There are only 5,000 grass tennis courts in the UK.
A planning officer’s report noted that The Lawn Tennis Association had been consulted and raised no objections to the loss of the grass courts.
The existing hard tennis courts and two artificial courts and floodlights would provide the club with sufficient capacity to satisfy current demand, the school claimed.
Two local objectors to the application attended the meeting, one of them commentng that the grass courts were "unique" and were accessible and affordable for local families.
Councillors decided to refer the decision to the Planning Committee's to decide on the application. The Council is recommending it be rejected.
Ian Wylie, former club secretary at Chiswick Poly Tennis and currently a member at the Civil Service Lawn Tennis Club commented; “It would be a moment of total shame for London, the LTA and British tennis if 14 superb grass courts - the very last in Chiswick - were to be dug up and replaced by a football pitch.
“It will remove forever a scarce west London tennis resource to young players of the future who watched Andy Murray re-write British sporting history on Sunday - watched by politicians of all parties in the royal box - just a few miles away on the same grass surface at the All England Club in Wimbledon.”
He appealed to London Mayor Boris Johnson to intervene to help preserve the courts for future generations.
Councillor Gerald McGregor, said at the meeting that having tennis stars such as Pete Sampras using the courts ahead of Wimbledon and Queens had an "iconic effect" but having stars renting the space for two weeks of the year did not keep the club going for the rest of the time.
However one club member said this was not strictly true as the grass courts were used for several months across the entire British grass court season.
Planning officers are expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.
Prominent past and present players who are often referred to as 'grass court' specialists include Pat Cash and Tim Henman. Others including Boris Becker, Venus Williams, Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt have all had their best results playing on grass. In London, Queen's and Wimbledon are the most famous- the latter is 100 per cent rye grass.
July 11, 2013