Competitive tennis is back after a year-long pause due to the pandemic with the Walkden and District Tennis League starting last Wednesday.
Teams from 18 clubs in the Greater Manchester region played out their first matches since 14 August 2019.
The clubs, which range from 2019’s Division One champions David Lloyd ‘A’ down to Division Three’s 2019 bottom placed team Astley ‘B’, have been building up to this moment since the return of tennis on March 29.
The League’s Chairman, Ian Hodgkinson, is optimistic for the season ahead.
He said: “It was great to return and start playing some competitive tennis last night and renew some old rivalries on the courts.
“It has been 21 months since the last match in the Walkden Tennis League so it was good to get back and hopefully things will continue to improve and we can return completely to normal so we can enjoy the remainder of the season.
“It seems from the first week most people have embraced the chance to return to competitive match tennis.”
Claremont Tennis and Social Club represent Salford in the league and have entered two teams – one in Division Two and another in Division Three.
Mary Makin, the club’s membership secretary, recognised the importance of the return of competition.
She said: “After such a horrid year last year, our members have been chomping at the bit to get back to playing tennis.
“The skill, fun, exercise and the social aspect are all so important.”
Joanne Trowbridge, Claremont ‘A’ team captain, echoed those sentiments adding: “All team members have commented on how they are all happy to have some level of normality back after a rather strange and, at times, frightening 12-18 months.
“It is also good to have the social interaction and a regular enjoyable form of exercise which has been echoed by those I have spoken to.”
However the courts at Claremont, which are Italian red clay, require lots of work to maintain and – after a year without play – they were “not in a very good way”.
But, thanks to hard work from playing and non-playing members at the club, three of the four courts have been cleared of the weeds and moss ahead of the season but there is still one issue facing the club.
“Unfortunately”, Trowbridge started, “only two can be used as we are currently unable to obtain enough clay to recover two courts this year.”
The league format pits two teams of eight players against each other, two men’s pairs and two ladies’ pairs, with the two pairs playing a set to eight games against each of the other team’s corresponding pairs. The result of the match is calculated by the number of games won by each team at the end.
Matches are played every Wednesday evening, with the season running from April to August.
But while the team selection should be straight forward, with tennis players ready to compete once again, Joanne Trowbridge has encountered an unusual difficulty.
She said: “The only difference in organising this year is finding out who is available to play after not seeing or hearing from members for over 12 months and finding out that some members have moved out of the area.”
The 2022 season will mark the 100-year anniversary of the Walkden and District League, but while Hodgkinson says they will ‘have to plan something’ the full focus for now is on “concentrating on whether or not we [will] be able to play matches this summer and also how keen club members will be to play matches against other clubs”.