News | 25 Aug 2023

Grassroots tennis players hit the grass at Wimbledon

The finalists of Play Your Way to Wimbledon, powered by Vodafone, had a smashing time at the home of tennis.

Amateur tennis players of various ages and backgrounds have had an unforgettable time on the manicured lawns of Wimbledon. The racket swingers played in the 2023 national finals of Play Your Way to Wimbledon, powered by Vodafone, the largest individual mass participation tennis competition in the UK.

Wheely good performance

Asif Abbasi, 46, from Chigwell in Essex, came out on top in the men’s wheelchair singles. After taking the top prize, he reflected on a memorable week in south-west London: “It’s surreal. I cannot imagine that I’m here, playing here at Wimbledon,” he said.

I’m really thankful for this opportunity so we can showcase wheelchair tennis, it has the potential to grow more and more, it’s amazing.  Wheelchair tennis gave me a second life. I was very down but I feel like I’m alive again and that I have a second chance to live my life. 

“It means a lot to me so I’m very thankful to all the people who’ve supported me in my ups and downs, so I’ll be giving the credit to them.”  

2023 saw the competition open up to more players with new Visual Impairment, Learning Disability and Wheelchair tennis categories, as well as an able-bodied Adult Doubles pathway. 

Aiming high: Vodafone ambassadors vie for fifth Wimbledon title

The wheelchair champs have also been helping to nurture the grassroots of the sport across the UK.

The Young Ones

Thousands of 14-and-under and 18-and-under players took part in the qualifying stages this year, leading to county and regional finals in June and July 2023, with the winners progressing to the national finals on Wimbledon’s Aorangi Courts. 

Gabby Read, 14, from St Albans in Hertfordshire, made it to the final of the girls under-14s singles where she won the first set before a cruel twist of fate saw her retire due to an injury. Even though, she was still thrilled to attend Wimbledon and revealed it was an experience she will never forget. 

“It was really fun, I enjoyed all of it apart from the end. I played well and the tournament was run really well. 

“Here it feels like I’m actually at Wimbledon, we do things the same way the players do when they’re here which is cool. It’s a good experience and I’ve had fun.”

Wimbledon beckons to even more amateur hopefuls

The ball is in your court: new categories for disabled and adult players give even more chances for tennis enthusiasts to play at Wimbledon.

Star struck

Vodafone ambassador and 23-time Grand Slam winner Alfie Hewett MBE was in attendance to cheer on the players at SW19 and offer his experience and advice.

“Playing at Wimbledon is an incredible experience, and something I still get a buzz from even now,” he said. “So it’s amazing for these players to have that chance themselves.

I’m also happy to see Wheelchair, Visual Impairment and Learning Disability categories added. When I was growing up opportunities were really hard to come by, so I’m delighted that Vodafone, AELTC and LTA are working together to give more opportunities for people of all abilities to pick up a racket.”

Vodafone announces Jack Draper, Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid as new tennis ambassadors

The three players will help promote 'Play Your Way to Wimbledon, powered by Vodafone', the UK’s largest individual mass participation tennis competition.

Former British No.1 Laura Robson was also on hand, encouraging and advising the youngsters at SW19.

She said: It’s just so cool to get the chance to play on these courts at Wimbledon. I still get a buzz every time I walk out there, so I can’t imagine how they’re feeling.

“I played Road to Wimbledon when I was much younger and I’m still friends with some of the people that I played against.

“It’s amazing to see how much it’s grown over the years and with the new categories this year it’s bigger and better.

“Growing the game involves letting people enjoy themselves on court and letting themselves have as much fun as possible so they want to come back and do it all over again next year.”

Vodafone announces new partnership with Wimbledon tennis

As Official Connectivity Partner, Vodafone will use its world-leading connectivity and the power of 5G to help bring the sport to more people, working alongside Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association.

The Next Generation

Formerly known as the Road to Wimbledon, the 2023 competition launched in March and is delivered in partnership by the LTA, The All England Lawn Tennis Club, and Vodafone.

The competition looks to inspire the next generation of tennis talent; enabling players of all ages to follow in the footsteps of their heroes and compete for a chance to play on Wimbledon’s iconic courts.

The 2023 tournament delivered over 10,000 playing opportunities across singles and doubles competitions in 800 venues.

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