By Vishal Saha
A multitude of different sports are played here at Hampton – however, one that does not always dominate the sports headlines or gain as much attention is Tennis. Vishal Saha explores the world of tennis and how it works at Hampton.
Tennis has grown in popularity over the years at Hampton and is one of the sports options offered. Although boys predominantly choose to do rugby and football as their ‘games’ option, many opt for the tennis courts instead. This is especially true during the summer term when the weather has improved – meaning the boys are more inclined to pick up their racquets and make the most of the sunshine. Additionally, there is an opportunity to play tennis during one of the various lunchtime training squads which run throughout the academic year – for both ‘development’ and ‘elite’ players.
At Hampton, we are fortunate to have a dedicated tennis coach and team of staff, who support the boys’ tennis. The coaching is coordinated by newly-appointed Head of Tennis, Classics teacher Mr Saunders. Additionally, Navneet Maan (an LTA [Lawn Tennis Association] registered coach) and Mr Langton provide invaluable assistance in tennis training. They regularly lead a variety of tennis drills and exercises to help strengthen the different aspects of the boys’ game.
At the moment, there is an A team which plays competitive matches in every year group, as well as two teams in the Seniors. The tennis calendar tends to be particularly busy (especially during the summer term) which provides Hamptonians with the opportunity to take part in matchplay in both singles and doubles. The Hampton tennis teams enter a range of different tournaments and competitions; these include the Surrey League competition for all age groups, an independent school league, and two LTA competitions for the Seniors.
To understand more about the plans for the expansion of tennis at Hampton, I spoke to Head of Tennis, Mr Saunders – who has been playing tennis from a very early age. From the age of about five, Mr Saunders began training at the set up at Bath University and then moved into their development and performance squads. Unfortunately, when he moved to secondary school, he was unable to play as frequently – but enjoyed picking tennis back up at University.
Mr Saunders hopes to oversee the growth of tennis and has ambitious goals for the future of the sport at Hampton. He tells me, “My aspirations for Tennis are two-fold. Firstly, I want to make it a more accessible sport by providing Hamptonians with more opportunities to train during lunchtimes and Saturdays. I am also keen to create B teams in each year for Tennis so that pupils have opportunities for matchplay against other schools.” On the other end of the spectrum, Mr Saunders explains that he is still “keen to support and develop boys who have played more tennis” by progressing further into the more competitive and challenging national competitions.
With regards to what makes tennis so special at Hampton, Mr Saunders says it is “the enjoyment that pupils get from playing doubles.” Doubles is a version of the sport which many Junior players rarely play – but it allows you to rotate more and play against your friends.
Currently, the School owns six all-weather tennis courts (three acrylic and three painted tarmac courts) – therefore offering plenty of space for a range of different abilities to play. However, at the time of writing, plans are already underway for the construction of five new tennis courts, designed with ‘TigerTurf’ surface. This is an artificial grass tennis court surface which can be played in all conditions which will be a much welcomed addition to the School site, as the additional courts will offer extra space to enjoy the game.
When asked about the best thing about Tennis at Hampton, Mr Saunders remarks, “I would say the boys’ willingness to compete. The summer term is incredibly busy and the fact that boys are consistently so keen to come and play matches each week amazes me.”