Organised by the Tennis Foundation, the Championships are the domestic highlight of the deaf tennis calendar and give experienced and up-and-coming players the chance to compete side-by-side.
This weekend’s tournament also gives the country’s elite players the chance to make their case for selection for the first World Deaf Tennis Championships which take place in Nottingham in July.
Players will compete for honours in men’s and women’s singles and doubles, mixed doubles and junior championship events, over the Bank Holiday Weekend, while a coaching clinic and a fun tournament for juniors on the first day of the Championships ensures that there are plenty of opportunities for players of all abilities to encourage and inspire more deaf people to take up tennis.
Defending champion Peter Willcox will bid for a 13th men’s singles title, but is bound to face strong opposition from Wiltshire’s Lewis Fletcher, who beat Willcox in 2012 before Willcox avenged that loss in the 2013 and 2014 finals.
Jack Clifton, who won silver in the junior boys’ singles at the 2012 European Championships before joining Fletcher and Willcox in Britain’s squad for the 2013 Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria, also lines up alongside his younger brother Toby and Esah Hayat. Watford’s Nicholas Ansell, another of Great Britain’s 2013 Deaflympians, takes local Hertfordshire hopes into the men’s singles and doubles events.
While Jack Clifton will be hoping he can upset past champions Fletcher and Willcox, brother Toby and Hayat will both contest both the men’s singles and the junior singles. Toby Clifton and Hayat were both in Great Britain’s squad for the 2014 Deaf Youth Tennis Cup in Hamburg, Germany.
Oxfordshire’s Beth Simmons will be favourite to retain the women’s singles National title she won last year for the second time since 2005. Simmons gained a clean sweep of singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles titles in 2014, partnering Willcox to win the mixed doubles. Valerie Copenhagen, one of the runner-up partnership in the women’s doubles in 2014, will be among Simmons’s main opposition this year.
“This is a historic year for deaf tennis in Great Britain and this year’s National Championships is set to be another highly competitive and exciting tournament as we look towards the World Championships,” said Catherine Fletcher, Great Britain Deaf Tennis Coach and a seven-time women’s singles National champion. “We have a wealth of seasoned international medallists taking part and an exciting generation of young players coming through. Spectators can expect a high level of tennis and we hope some will be inspired to come to the World Championships in July.”
“A big part of the National Championships every year is giving young players the chance to see some of the country’s and the world’s best deaf tennis players in action as well as getting on court themselves. So we are also excited for another fun junior clinic and tournament and welcoming young players who we hope will go on to play in the growing number of deaf tennis sessions that are a part of the Tennis Foundation’s Disability Tennis Networks around the country.”
Entry to the National Deaf Tennis Championships is free to all spectators and play is scheduled to begin at 10am on Saturday, 2 May.