Wimbledon champ serves up Harrogate masterclass

Reigning Wimbledon Doubles champion Jonny Marray hit Harrogate to serve up a tennis masterclass.

Players and fans flocked to The Academy fitness centre to see Jonny and former Davis Cup regular Danny Sapsford coach and rally.

Danny Sapsford, Mika Brown, Philippa Shackleton, Mat Parry and Jonny Marray.

Danny Sapsford, Mika Brown, Philippa Shackleton, Mat Parry and Jonny Marray.

They also took part in an exhibition match with club members GB Triathlete Mika Brown, 18, and Mat Parry, who used to play with Jonny on the tennis circuits.

Jonny said: “It is all about trying to get people playing the game after the summer the sport has had, with Andy Murray winning at the Olympics and the US Open.

“It is great to see everyone get so interested in sport and tennis, and I want to do anything I can to raise interest in it.

“People will recognise I am just a normal Yorkshire lad, I haven’t had the most successful career but I plugged away and got my reward at Wimbledon.”

Jonny played tournaments in North Yorkshire as a junior, and was delighted to return in a coaching capacity with Danny.

British Doubles number one Jonny explained: “Danny approached me in the summer about the possibility of doing a few masterclasses in the north near where I grew up and played a lot of my tennis.

“The majority of the tennis being played in the clubs is doubles, so as a doubles player, I was ready to come up and help him in a few clinics and go through a few tips with the club players and help them to improve their tennis.

“I have known Danny for a few years, he is really enthusiastic and positive and explains things so well to the players.

“I think the reception and feedback we have had has been positive, I have really enjoyed playing as well.”

Jonny, 31, turned pro in 2000, and won Wimbledon last year with doubles partner Frederik Nielsen.

He said: “I wasn’t at the top of the game but I have always believed in myself and enjoyed playing, it is nice to show what can happen if you work hard and persevere at it, you can get success later in the day.”

He is eyeing further success this year.

He said: “I am starting off the year with the Brazilian player Andre Sah. I have known him a few years now, we get on well and he is a great player.

“Andre has been on the doubles scene for a while, he has good experience and I think we can team up well together.”

Danny Sapsford has been running the Tennis Circus, where he delivers masterclass coaching sessions across the country, for more than two years, and hopes it may help implement the legacy of London 2012, which urged young people to take up sport.

He said: “The sessions tie in nicely with what has been happening this year, hopefully the ballboys and girls who come along are inspired to go and do bigger and better things.

“Everyone wants to get out there to play sport, and this is the perfect tool to be able to do that on the tennis court.”

He added: “Unfortunately, there aren’t going to be many generations who can say they have the chance to interact with a reigning Wimbledon champion, so we are making the most of that right now.”

He concentrates on the commercial side of tennis as he is no longer part of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).

He concedes there remains much work to do to improve the game nationally.

He said: “I think the British women are doing very well at the moment, but the men are struggling.

“It has been disguised by the fact that Andy Murray has been in the top four for the past few years, but the number two is quite a long way behind him.

“It is not encouraging, but on the whole things are going in the right direction, it is just taking a lot of time.”

The Academy’s Head of Tennis Chris Paraskos said: “It was fantastic to have Jonny and Danny here, the place was buzzing.

“Both of them had brilliant interpersonal skills, they were willing to help everybody and it just shows we have world-class tennis players and coaches. We are delighted with what they have done here.

“Jonny won Wimbledon at a late stage of his career, it shows young people and everyone else if you have enough dedication and hard work then you can get somewhere and you can achieve. It’s just about getting your head down.”

He added: “If people want to become sportsmen and women then we have the facilities in Harrogate to do that, we just want to make people aware the coaches are beginner and people-friendly.”

The Academy has four indoor and three outdoor tennis courts, and offers coaching for all age groups. See theacademy.co.uk