Emma Raducanu wanted to front campaign to make tennis courts free for all children

Emma Raducanu in the US Open final - Emma Raducanu wanted to front campaign to make tennis courts free for all children - AFP
Emma Raducanu in the US Open final – Emma Raducanu wanted to front campaign to make tennis courts free for all children – AFP

Emma Raducanu is wanted as the face of a campaign to make every public tennis court in the country free to use for children and low-income families.

Tony Hawks, the comedian and author who co-founded the charity Tennis for Free, told Telegraph Sport that Britain’s teenage phenomenon would be the perfect ambassador in his quest to convince the Government and local authorities to open up otherwise underused facilities.

Hawks said Tennis for Free, which operates tennis sessions at public parks nationwide free of charge, had already held talks about the Lawn Tennis Association backing such a campaign and that it would be “absolutely fantastic” to have Raducanu fronting one.

“It would be wonderful news – and coming from a teenager herself,” he added.

Raducanu this year became an ambassador for LTA Youth and, during an interview with Good Morning Britain on Friday, she said she had spoken to Boris Johnson “about how we both wanted to try to inspire more kids in grass-roots tennis and get more young children involved and, hopefully, that my win can inspire some young kids and also show that you can live a normal life and achieve great things”.

Hawks hailed Raducanu’s ‘fairytale of New York’ US Open triumph, which saw her become the first qualifier to win a grand slam and the first British woman to win a major for 44 years, as “the biggest story since [Boris] Becker won Wimbledon”.

Emma Raducanu’s childhood tennis club, The Parklangley Club in Beckenham where she trains. US Open Women's champion Raducanu was trained by Harry Bushnell between the ages of 6 and 10 at the club. - JAMIE LORRIMAN
Emma Raducanu’s childhood tennis club, The Parklangley Club in Beckenham where she trains. US Open Women’s champion Raducanu was trained by Harry Bushnell between the ages of 6 and 10 at the club. – JAMIE LORRIMAN

But he said that her talent would have lain undiscovered “if she’d been born into a poorer family”.

He added: “There’s nothing in place, yet, in this country that means we could discover a tennis player if their parents didn’t like tennis.”

Hawks said any campaign would target local authorities which charge people to use public tennis courts in a bid to convince them to allow the under-16s and those from low-income families to use them for free when they were lying dormant.

He said such a gesture would not cost councils “a penny in revenue”, adding: “The courts just lay empty all summer holiday in the daytime, because the people who pay for the courts are at work.

“It may not have escaped people’s attention that children don’t have income, so I just think it’s insane what we do, really, saying, ‘You’ve got to pay for these courts’.

“You don’t have to pay to go into a children’s playground. Why not? Well, the answer is because everybody knows it benefits the children.

“Why does that not apply to tennis? It’s exactly the same.”