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Cam Norrie is set to become the new British No.1 on Monday after reaching the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
Norrie will become the 18th British man to top the domestic rankings since 1973 after defeating World No.15 Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-2.
The win takes Norrie to 45 victories on the season – overtaking World No.1 Novak Djokovic.
The Brit’s incredible season has seen him rise from World No.74 in January 2021 to just outside the top 25 as of last week – which will increase again when the rankings are officially released on Monday.
Norrie’s ascent up the rankings has continued the progress that saw him become the first player to graduate from the LTA’s Pro-Scholarship Programme at the end of 2019.
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Since 2006, only three other players have held the crown of British No.1, including Andy Murray (who topped the British rankings for 12 years), Kyle Edmund and most recently, Dan Evans.
The 26-year-old reached the last four at an ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time in his career, having also beaten Tennys Sandgren, Roberto Bautista-Agut and Tommy Paul in the earlier rounds.
In the semi-final he’ll take on Grigor Dimitrov, who knocked out top seed and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and eighth seed Hubert Hurkacz in the last two rounds.
Tennis coach John Hutchinson Sukhdeo has been involved in the sport for most of his life. To celebrate Black History Month the LTA IDEA Group member has written about his journey through the sport from playing to coaching and his experiences in between.
When I used to mention to people that I played tennis, I was often met with responses like "For real??? I never expected that you played tennis?" or "How comes? Tennis is a white man’s sport?". I only began to challenge these responses when I began studying sport at University, studying the Sociology of sport, and why certain classes and demographics participate in certain sports. Learning about the history of traditional British Lawn Tennis clubs in the past, and their social exclusion of the working class, using the sport as an instrument for a middle-class image.
What became frustrating however, was reflecting on my own experience as a junior tennis player, reminiscing on the feeling of being an outsider at tennis clubs, and questioning, what had really changed?
My father was born in Guyana and immigrated to London as part of the Windrush generation
My biggest inspiration for being introduced to tennis is my father, Robby Sukhdeo. He is both a tennis coach and now a tennis club owner, running the Pavilion Sports and Café in Haringey, North London. My father was born in Guyana and immigrated to London as part of the Windrush generation. Like so many children of the Windrush, has so many special qualities about his character. Some of these qualities include a faith that hard work will pay off, and that anything is possible as long as you have belief. These qualities fuelled the success of the Pavilion Sports and Café, where I witnessed my dad go from a part time tennis coach and technician, to owner of his own tennis club.
Before he started his business however, he invested a fair bit of time and money (which he loves to remind me it was money he couldn't afford) into my own tennis journey. He would coach me and also take me to another local North London coach who was Ghanaian. He would constantly remind me it was important for myself as a junior player, to see people like himself and Joe (my Ghanaian coach) to witness that anyone can play tennis.
However, as I began to play more competitively, it led me to playing in different squads and tournaments across London. By this point I was around the age of 14/15 and just couldn't shake the feeling of not fitting in. At times when you are the only person of colour in a room/clubhouse/squad full of white people, you begin to feel an unshakable feeling of not belonging. I began to compare my junior tennis experience to my experience playing youth football. At all the football clubs I had ever played in, there was always an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere, no matter what colour or class you are. But the same couldn't have been said about my experience with junior tennis growing up. That feeling was only reinforced when watching tennis on TV, seeing the diversity in football compared to tennis. All of the above eventually led me to giving up the sport around the age of 16.
It is great that the LTA are acknowledging Black History Month, as it is a month where many unsung heroes’ stories can be celebrated, often ones who are overlooked. Black History needs to be celebrated for more than just one month, but through raising awareness of people’s stories and experiences this month, we can begin to work towards a more inclusive society. If we can create an inclusive society in tennis clubs across the country, we can make it happen anywhere.
I have a lot of hope that the climate of tennis is beginning and already changing. The LTA have acknowledged that more needs to be done, and now have established the IDEA group to help drive inclusion and diversity into tennis, in line with its vision to open up tennis to many more people. I am now back coaching tennis across Haringey, and working as a primary teacher too, with a constant recognition to the need for our young people to see diversity in teaching, in coaching and in positions of power. I was lucky enough to see my dad make it seem possible, and I have the belief that positive change will only grow from here.
I have been lucky enough to travel back to Guyana, where my father was born, and work as a coach for the Guyanese Lawn Tennis Association. Post covid, we will be working towards a partnership between the Pavilion Sports and Café and tennis in Guyana, continuing the ethos that tennis can be played anywhere and by anyone.
The LTA Inclusion Strategy sets out how the LTA will continue to change the culture of tennis in Britain to be more inclusive, which is absolutely central to our Vision of Tennis Opened Up. To find out more about the strategy, please click here
Black History Month takes place across the month of October and aims to promote and celebrate Black contributions to British society, and to foster an understanding of Black history. This year’s theme is ‘Proud to Be’, inviting Black and Brown people of all ages throughout the UK to share what they are proud to be.
A female tennis activator from Bradford who delivers the LTA SERVES community tennis programme at Sunnah Sports Academy Trust fulfilled a lifelong ambition by leading a tennis session for young women with Judy Murray on Friday.
Nalette Tucker, who manages the Sunnah Sports Academy in Bradford, was joined by Murray at a special event organised by the LTA, the national governing body for tennis in Great Britain.
These weekly sessions organised and delivered by Tucker aim to develop tennis skills, confidence and self-esteem in a safe and familiar environment for young women from underserved communities.
The event was the latest collaboration between the LTA’s SERVES and She Rallies programmes, the latter being delivered in partnership with Murray.
Murray and Tucker had initially met at an LTA SERVES and LTA She Rallies training workshop for females in Birmingham during 2019 and had discussed the possibility of Murray returning in a mentoring role before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nalette is a fantastic role model and is fiercely committed to growing our sport in her local community.
LTA SERVES is delivered at nearly 200 venues across the UK by community leaders, like Tucker, who are trained to deliver free tennis activities to local young people who might not have believed tennis was a sport for them. LTA She Rallies works to develop a female work force to create more opportunities for women and girls in tennis.
Friday’s session used drills and games from the LTA She Rallies programme, which aims to spark an interest in tennis among girls and young women by providing a basic introduction to the core co-ordination and movement skills needed for tennis.
Kiran Matharu, Community Tennis Manager said: “Nalette is a fantastic role model and is fiercely committed to growing our sport in her local community. It was great to see her working alongside one of the best in the business in Judy today. Our SERVES programme brings tennis to places and people who wouldn’t necessarily think it was for them, and Nalette has been a brilliant advocate of it for many years.
Jo-Anne Downing, LTA Product & Programme Manager said: “The idea of bringing SERVES and She Rallies together is to use the training content we’ve developed with Judy to empower young women from non-traditional areas to deliver tennis to their local communities. We have worked in partnership to recently deliver training workshops in London and Manchester to upskill many more female activators and hopefully Nalette and Judy will inspire more girls to believe that tennis is a sport for them.”
Nalette Tucker said: “One of my proudest moments was meeting Judy in 2019, so to have her come here to work with me and our young people was incredible. Tennis can be for anyone and having programmes like LTA SERVES and She Rallies, as well as role models like Judy, is vital to getting more and more young girls into the sport. It was an amazing experience to put on this session today and I’d like to thank Judy for coming to be a part of it.
Judy Murray said: “It was a pleasure to see Nalette again and to work with the amazing young women who attend her sessions. She was organised, firm, fair and friendly - a born leader and a natural teacher. Nalette embodies what She Rallies is all about - inspiring and supporting women to get involved in starter tennis delivery in their back yards. If we want tennis to be accessible and affordable to many more people, we need to encourage and support more Nalettes. She absolutely rocks.”
Find out more about LTA SERVES at www.lta.org.uk/workforce-venues.
20 years of addiction and mental health issues had taken a huge toll on Steve. By accepting help, volunteering, and a programme of recovery, Steve has turned his life around, one day at a time - and a big part of that recovery has been a rediscovery of his love of tennis.
I’d always felt like an outsider ever since I was a kid. I would hang around in large groups and appear fine but inside I was always deeply uncomfortable in my own skin. When I was older and discovered alcohol, that’s when I finally had something to numb myself to these feelings.
I'd throw myself into everything to distract myself from how I felt. Football, films, books, history, music, studying sharks, anything I could immerse myself in, I did.
I used to play a lot of tennis and fell in love with the sport at a young age, but sadly I stopped in my late teens, which meant I was doing far less exercise than I had in the past. Back then I never wanted to start again – I always felt the road back to getting to where I used to be was too long so I left it.
I couldn’t sit and read a book for too long on my own without feeling I should be doing something else. If I was left with my own thoughts, I was usually quickly outnumbered. I ran on nervous energy and it was totally exhausting.
My ‘rock bottom’ wasn't one individual incident, it was the last in a long line of behaving badly and my life being out of control. I couldn’t drink much before blacking out entirely, though I didn’t get that until my late 20s. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, but I thought that this was the way I had to live.
I vividly remember sitting on my bed drinking from a red wine bottle and asking myself, ‘why can’t I just stop?!’, before continuing, ending up in some random pub surrounded by people looking for the same things as me. Misery loves company. I put myself in very dangerous situations and was lucky to escape with my life on a number of occasions.
I was broken and wanted to change.
I met my partner six months before I got sober, still locked into my addiction. After the latest incident, we spoke candidly, and I had the familiar feeling of being about to lose a relationship with someone great because of my drinking. It was overpowering and felt beyond my control. I was not fit to be a partner and I wanted to disappear.
Incredibly, my partner gave me a chance to fix myself. We wrote down a plan which had 10 points. I remember writing it thinking that I might as well be writing: ‘1. Fly to the Moon’, 2. Live to 200 years old’. I didn't think I had a chance. I remember thinking that I would be dead soon and being powerless to stop it. I was broken and wanted to change. My hell was very private, and I had never discussed it with anyone.
In July 2018 I went to the doctor. For the first time in my life, I was honest with a healthcare professional. I’d always been very underweight and now this also became something that gripped me. I was making myself sick daily at this point. I would never have admitted this then, but that is the reality of the situation. I was referred to the ‘Hackney Recovery Centre’ where I spoke to someone about what was happening to me for the first time. After a challenging start, the final few sessions were fantastic and I took up the suggestion that I continued therapy privately which I did, until about a year ago, with life-changing results. They gave me a roadmap to recovery and I honestly don’t think I’d be here without it.
No.3 on the list was to join a 12-step recovery programme. I thought I’d struggle to find one, but, like Diagon Alley in Harry Potter, this whole new world was hidden in a series of community centres, school gyms, churches and basically anywhere that a group of people can get together and drink bad coffee.
A 12-step programme saved my life and continues to do so. I went to over 100 meetings in the first 90 days and now go to one 4-5 times a week. I was so sceptical of it and tried to look for another way but there was no other way for me, I had nothing left. As we say in recovery, ‘I was given the gift of desperation’.
Upon writing this article, I went back to the beginning of my sobriety journey to see what my thinking was like. I kept a diary of my recovery (the nights are very long when you don't go to pubs, so I had to do something). Words like lonely, scared, ashamed, confused, death and fear came up a lot. I see that person with compassion now; I wasn’t a bad person turning good, I was a sick person getting well.
I was three years sober on 8 July 2021. Before I sought help, I could barely make a week. I have a network of people around me who help me to maintain this and I feel supported.
I cannot adequately describe how different my life is today. I am valued at work, known for my work ethic, positivity, and honesty. I am the company first aid officer and helped people during lockdown with their own mental health issues. Being trusted to be the person people go to is truly humbling for me.
Every single day, I look to see what more I can do, the opposite of my former self, entirely.
I delivered food parcels during lockdown and still do. I volunteer with the homeless, sit on local committees, pick up litter in the area I am grateful to live in and I mentor students from disadvantaged backgrounds. My charity work enables me to get out of my head and be useful. The opposite of addiction is connection. Every single day, I look to see what more I can do, the opposite of my former self, entirely.
I was not present when I was in addiction. Now, I am a doting uncle to my two nieces who I hope will grow up with only experiences of me like this. I sponsor two people in their own recovery journey which helps me, every day. I’ve had friends of mine, friends of friends and even people from school who I've not spoken to in years, reach out and tell me that they have appreciated hearing about my story and want advice.
I’m the fittest I’ve been since I was 18 and have put on weight and I eat sensibly. My mind is like that of a different person.
A huge improvement to my life which has provided me joy and connection again is that I have started playing tennis again after 20 years. This improved my mental and physical health dramatically and allowed me to meet new people.
I wanted to play competitive tennis again, so I signed up to my Highbury Local Tennis League. I must admit I was very rusty in my first match and couldn’t string together more than three shots in a row. I have a notebook I fill in after matches and lessons with a ‘pros and cons’ and the ‘pros’ list was empty, with the corresponding ‘cons’ list having about 15 examples of negativity from the match.
I then told Elle that perhaps tennis was not for me and that that window was shut to me after being out for so long but about two or three days later, I returned to the list and added in the ‘pros’; ‘I am playing tennis again after 20 years’, ‘I am playing competitive sport again’ and ‘I am well enough to play again’, ‘playing tennis outdoors in a park is beautiful’ and suddenly, the list did not look so bad.
I now play two or three times a week with the aim of making the Highbury Tennis Men’s Team. I love playing, have got some old friends hitting with me again, and have a brand new circle of people that I now play with. Playing again is a joy in my life that has brightened it in so many ways.
The LTA were incredibly supportive of my journey back to playing and did a short film about it. From this, I had more people reach out to talk which was amazing, many of which have now become my friends.
With this passion for reconnecting with old hobbies, I started painting during lockdown for the first time in 20 years and made gifts of them to my friends and family. I wrote letters to people and started writing again, another passion of mine that I neglected for years. Some of it is terrible and some of it is OK, and that’s just fine.
I am now a positive person looking forward to living my life and turning up, giving my best and being helpful. When a bad day comes along, I know it will pass and I will be OK. I hope my story can inspire others to take the same steps. You do it by putting one foot in front of the other. It does require action on your part, but you will be amazed at how many compassionate people are out there who will be happy to help.
On 3 July 2021 Steve asked his partner, Elle to marry him and she said yes - they intend to get married in September 2022.
If our are having a difficult time or need someone to talk to, you can contact a Samaritan on 116 123, any time of day or night - visit https://www.samaritans.org/ for more. Further information on support that is available can also be found on the MIND website: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/.
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