Ilkley Tennis and Squash Club saw last summer’s international event cancelled amid the Covid-19 pandemic and this year’s tournament has been moved by the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) due to the lack of a bio-secure bubble surrounding the venue.
The Stourton Road club had been due to hold an ATP Challenger event and Women’s ITF tournament as part of the grass court season build-up to Wimbledon in June.
However, the Ilkley Trophy – which could yet keep its name despite the switch in venue – will be hosted at Nottingham Tennis Centre (June 13-20) as part of a two-week double tournament instead.
The move will mean a two-year absence of elite tennis action in Ilkley and despite worries over a future return, plans are already being put in place to make 2022 the most memorable following the competition’s arrival in Yorkshire six years ago.
“The message is that we’re going to make next year the best one yet,” Chris Brown, chair of Ilkley Tennis Club, told The Yorkshire Post.
“The Ilkley tournament has established itself as the best of the Challenger tournaments before Wimbledon. The club is contracted through until next year with the LTA, so there is no reason why it shouldn’t come back.
“We will be making our preparations on the assumption that it is. If you have an international tournament then you have to keep the grass at a higher level and we’re going to maintain the grass to those standards.
“We’re planning for 2022 to be a great year for the Ilkley Trophy.
“There are always positives and negatives to every situation. Our members will get to use the grass courts even more than usual this year but they miss out on seeing a fantastic level of tennis being played.”
On a local amateur level, the club has been hit hard by the ongoing global crisis, having to endure restrictions last summer before full closure and the loss of around a thousand members.
“We have people who literally play every day – it’s their life,” added Brown.
“It’s been very difficult for them. I’m sure they’re all really looking forward to March 29 when they can get going again officially.
“To lose members at the capacity we have in the last 12 months has been really tough. We’re hoping we’ll get a sizeable chunk of those back but it does have a big impact on your finances.
“Fortunately, we’re a fairly robust institution, so we’re not going to disappear because of this but it’s not a good situation for us to be in.
“There’s been a huge social impact as well with the club not being able to function and it has been a big hole in Ilkley and across the local community.
“I know this myself because I get a lot of emails from members who are very keen to come back as soon as safely possible. We’re hopeful we can get some return to normality this summer.”