PRIORY Tennis Club, Stalybridge, served up a treat as it welcomed former Davis Cup players Danny Sapsford and Luke Milligan who have also graced the courts at Wimbledon.
The pair paid a visit as part of the Bright Ideas for Tennis initiative that aims to promote tennis at grassroots level – it didn’t cost Priory a penny.
Sapsford and Milligan spent the day at Priory where they coached youngsters before having a couple of afternoon exhibition doubles matches.
Children from local schools were invited to attend and most of the lessons were fully booked. In total around 250 people attended the day-long event.
After Sapsford and Milligan completed the morning sessions speed guns were set up on the courts to establish who had the fastest serve, which was delivered by the club champion Josh Byrom who sent down one measured at a whopping 110mph.
Later club chairman Nick Holmes and Byrom joined Sapsford and Milligan on court for a really exciting high quality exhibition set which was won by Milligan and Byrom 6-2 followed by a separate tie-break which Sapsford and Milligan won 7-0.
The highlight of the day was when the club’s oldest playing member 93-year-old Jack Millin and 12-year-old Ciaran Dale, the club’s junior champion, teamed up to play a friendly tie-break against Sapsford and Milligan.
Millin, who joked he had been training for 75 years for this match, said: “We decided in advance that Ciaran would do most of the running.”
The tactics obviously worked because they won the tie-break 7-6.
Sapsford said: “We had a fantastic day. It was great to see so many enthusiastic players despite the weather.
“It’s so important for clubs to have a great coach complemented by a passionate committee and in both areas Priory Tennis Club are in good hands – it was no surprise that the charity event was a huge success.
“Tennis is a game for all ages, and this was perfectly highlighted when Luke and I played an exhibition match against Jack and Ciaran. Despite our best efforts, youth and experience gained a well deserved victory on the day!”
Priory is flourishing both on and off the court.
They have just achieved a third successive promotion in the North East Cheshire Tennis League and will play in division four next season.
The aim is to serve and volley their way back to division two where they played in 2006 before the club fell on hard times.
“We have a lot of good players coming through and have had an upturn in membership from 140 up to 212 in recent years,” explained Mr Holmes.
Mr Holmes, who has been chairman for the last four years, described it as a challenge to transform the fortunes of the club.
He admitted the club was at a crossroads and could have gone either way.
“The support I have received to turn the place around has been fantastic and everyone is buzzing. The challenge now is to keep the good work going,” he said.
The club received £75,000 from Sport England to improve the clubhouse while a separate £55,000 was spent on resurfacing the playing courts.
Priory received a £10,000 interest free loan with members finding the remaining £45,000.
If you want any information about Priory Tennis Club please visit www.priorytennis.co.uk or check out the club’s Facebook page.