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Britain's top female players set to return to tennis

Britain’s top female tennis players will soon have the chance to compete again thanks to the brand new £30,000 Progress Tour Women’s Championships, due to be held at the LTA’s National Tennis Centre from July 14 -18, 2020. 

A host of top British players have already signed up to play, including British No.3 Harriet Dart, Naomi Broady, Samantha Murray, Jodie Burrage and promising young GB Fed Cup player Emma Raducanu. More top British players are likely to join the line-up for singles and doubles in the coming weeks. 

“I’m so excited to compete again,” said GB Fed Cup player Dart. “It’s great that we have the chance to play matches once more [at the Progress Tour Women's Championships] and are able to restart our careers in an environment that will be safe for us and everyone involved.”

The event is the result of a collaboration between WTA-ranked British players Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett, long-term women’s tennis supporter Terry Oakes, and former ATP ranked player and now tournament director of The Progress Tour, Barry Fulcher. It is an independent tournament hosted and supported by the LTA. 

It will join a number of domestic events being staged at the governing body’s National Tennis Centre in June and July to mark the return of professional tennis in Britain, including British Tour tournaments and other independent events such as Jamie Murray’s Battle of the Brits. 

The Event With a minimum £30,000 total prize money pool, the event will provide 16 British WTA singles competitors and the top eight British women’s doubles teams with a first-class, socially-distanced event on home soil, top level matches and an opportunity to restart their careers following the global shutdown of sport caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Progress Tour Women’s Championships will take place over five days in a round robin format, similar to the World Tour Finals, with 16 players split into two tiers - Premier event & Division 1 -  before battling through to the knockout semi-final stage.

“We are excited to present this brand new event to celebrate the best of British Women’s tennis,” said Barry Fulcher. “This is an event for players, by players, giving the top British women the much-needed opportunity to get back to competition and also to begin earning again via the prize-money we’ve managed to raise.  It’s been fantastic to work alongside two passionate players in Olivia and Alicia and to be able to host the event at the National Tennis Centre, thanks to the LTA’s support.” 

Alicia Barnett said: “Progress Tour Women’s Championships is something to really look forward to in such uncertain times with the promise of prize money and quality matches for players. It will set the stage for the return of women’s tennis in this country and great preparation for the return of international tennis.“

Olivia Nicholls said:  “Domestic events are exactly what we as players need during this time. It gives us an end goal, something to train towards, as well as an opportunity to earn good prize money. The event will be a great way to celebrate women’s tennis at the highest level and is great preparation for when we return to playing on the international circuit again”.

Scott Lloyd, LTA Chief Executive, said: “We are very pleased to be hosting the Progress Tour Women’s Championships and helping to provide another opportunity for British players to compete safely during these exceptional circumstances. This event forms part of a coordinated plan for the return of elite tennis competition and, alongside Jamie Murray’s ‘Battle of the Brits’ and LTA British Tour tournaments, it is a significant part of what will be a very exciting summer of tennis. We have already seen a huge demand for tennis since the adjustment of lockdown restrictions, and we hope this calendar of events will inspire even more people to get on court. We will work with Barry and the Progress Tour team to undertake the necessary preparations and risk assessments ahead of the tournament.”

Elite sport - return to domestic competition The Progress Tour is working closely with the LTA on tournament preparations which, like all the tournaments being hosted at the National Tennis Centre, will be subject to Government guidelines as set out under a stage three return to ‘behind-closed-doors’ elite sporting events. The national governing body is part of a UK Sport working group advising the Government on the development of the guidelines.

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