Britain and Eastbourne’s Johanna Konta started her preparations for this year’s Nature Valley International in her home town with a surprise warm up on court with local nine-year-old Ruby Wood on Friday afternoon.
The surprise began when the Great Britain Fed Cup star arrived at Ruby’s home in Eastbourne to pick up her and mum Carissa before driving together to Devonshire Park for an exclusive practice on court no 1 in front of Ruby’s proud family.
The session was part of the LTA’s Tennis for Kids programme which gives children between the ages of four and 11 the chance to try tennis for the first time. More than 74,000 children have taken part in the programme since it was launched following Great Britain’s famous Davis Cup victory in 2015. Gildredge Park in Eastbourne, where Ruby first learned to play is one of a number of park sites across Sussex and the country where Tennis for Kids is delivered.
Konta, who will be in action next week in the women’s draw which also features six of the world’s top 10 including 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens and recently crowned French Open Winner Ashleigh Barty, said, “It was a lovely surprise for Ruby but also a lovely surprise for me.
“I remember being Ruby’s age and falling in love with tennis so it was great to see that same love from Ruby and the smile on her face. To spend some time with her on the court and see her love for the sport was a real privilege. Tennis at her age should be about having fun and enjoying it with your friends so its great to see the LTA through the Tennis for Kids programme giving children the opportunity to do this.”
Ruby, who first picked up a racket when she was two-years-old, said, “My brother first got me into tennis at my local court and I love it. I was a bit nervous about playing with Jo at first but it was really fun and she was amazing to play with. I’d love to be like her when I’m older but I just like being on court and having fun. I think she played a bit better than me today though.
Tennis for Kids courses take place across the summer and all year round. Places are still available for the next six- week Tennis for kids programme in Eastbourne’s Gildredge Park which starts on Monday July 1.
A spokesperson said, “If you’re inspired by Jo and Ruby, want to find out more and sign up to a local course visit https://www.lta.org.uk/play-compete/
The Nature Valley International takes place at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne, from June 21-29.