The LTA’s British Tour, which concluded yesterday, offered some much needed and welcome competitive opportunity – not to mention prizemoney and profile (the event was televised by the BBC) – for some of Britain’s beleaguered men and women tennis players. The Tour was aimed at performance players with a rating of 4.2 or better and included a one-day Fast4 doubles format for doubles competition on the final day of each event.
Players from American Universities joined their home-based counterparts throughout July for a month of Covid-free, ‘no spectators’ competition at the LTA’s National Tennis Centre.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the four week ‘mini-tour’ was Wimbledon based junior, Arthur Fery, who won two of the four men’s singles titles on offer, the first of these with victory over 22 year old 6’2” right-
hander Alastair Gray, who was born in London but learnt his tennis at Texas Christian University. He achieved a career high ATP singles ranking of 986 back in 2017.
Fery, whose mother Olivia was a former tennis professional who reached 225 in the world back in 1991, is on an upward trajectory. When international competition ceased back in March, he was ranked 12th in the ITF’s junior standings, this following his progress to the quarter finals of the Australian Open junior event back in January.
Fery was joined on the winner’s podium in Week 1 by Canadian born but Kent based teenager, 17-year-old right hander Emma Raducanu. In a rain interrupted week, Raducanu benefited from the surprise exit of No 1 seed and world No 180 Samantha Murray Sharan, 32, early on.
Murray Sharan was travelling with her new husband of 8 months, Divij, 34, who, with his partner, Vijay Sundar, won the men’s doubles title with 4-2 4-1 victory over Ryan Penniston and David Stevenson in week 4.
“We hope to be able to play more combined events together so we can actually get to see each other!” Divij Sharan said. “Life on tour is so busy, so I think it’s amazing that she (Samantha) is a tennis player as well. She knows what it takes to be on the circuit and we are there to support each other’s careers.”
Raducanu took full advantage of Murray Sharan’s unexpected absence, progressing to the final where she defeated 21-year-old Jodie Burrage in a thrilling final encounter, 6-4 2-6 10-4. But it was Fery who was the only entrant – male or female to score a repeat success when in Week 3 he outlasted Jonathan Gray in three sets, 6-2 2-6 10-6.
The highest ranked male player to enter the Tour, British No 3 and World No 77, Cameron Norrie, 25, won in Week 2 following a straight sets victory over 2019 NCAA men’s singles champion and now world No 519, Paul Jubb who was hindered by a groin strain, while Scotland’s Maia Lumsden, seeded two, came from a set down to beat 17 year old Sussex based player Alicia Dudeney 3-6 6-4 11-9 in the women’s final.
In Week 3, Fery, as well as defeating the aforementioned Leeds based Jonathan Gray, five years his senior, in the final, also had a strong win over No 1 seed Jack Draper a round earlier. He was joined on the winner’s podium by 17-year-old Grace Piper, from Bishops Hull in Somerset, who defeated 23-year-old right hander, Emma Wilson 6-3 4-6 10-8 to win the women’s singles title.
In the final week of the Tour, victory in the men’s event went to Charles Broom – benefiting from the withdrawal of top seed Lloyd Glasspool in the semis because of injury – who defeated 24-year-old Henry Patten 7-6 6-1.
22-year-old Broom is ranked 1157 in the world, and, like Patten, lives and plays his tennis out of the United States.
24-year-old Lily Miyazaki, the highest ranked player in the tournament at 351, defeated Grace Piper 6-0 6-2 in just over an hour in the women’s final in Week 4. Miyazaki, born in Tokyo, has learnt her tennis on the road.
She lived in England for 8 years, where she attended Coombe High School in Surrey and was coached at the Sutton Tennis Centre, but she also had four years in Switzerland before heading to the States Collegiate system.
24-year-old Myazaki concluded her singles final with an ace and was pleased with her overall performance.
“I’m really happy with my win today,” she said. “I thought I played a pretty clean match. But credit to Grace. She’s been playing well and made it really tough for me. I think I just played the big points better than her, maybe with experience and stuff like that.”
She then rounded off a great tournament by winning the doubles event with partner Emily Appleton. Seeded 1, they overcame the challenge of Indianna Spink and Holly Staff, 4-1 4-3.
Just before the conclusion of the July Tour, the LTA announced three more British Tour events, in August and September, a welcome boost for the game in this country, and its lower tier players.