Shropshire tennis ace Ian Gillespie is excited to have the chance to play on Wimbledon’s hallowed grass courts in a prestigious tournament this week.
Gillespie, from Newport, is seeded three in the men’s over-45 category at the British Seniors Closed Grass Court Championships, an ITF Masters event, which is taking place at SW19.
His first round match is scheduled for Thursday, with Gillespie – currently ranked fourth in his age group in the ITF British rankings and 77 in the world – hoping to impress.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to play on the hallowed turf and to play at a venue where world class players play,” said Gillespie.
“Just to set foot on there and be able to compete on the grass courts at Wimbledon will be a special moment.
“But it won’t faze me as it’s the same size tennis court and the net’s the same height.”
Gillespie, recently part of the Shropshire men’s team promoted at the LTA’s Summer County Cup, as well as Shropshire’s over-35s men’s captain, has climbed the ITF seniors rankings following a good run of results.
Now he wants to keep moving in the right direction.
“It’s taken me about two years of playing events to build up ranking points and show the commitment,” he said.
“I’ve won five ITF tournaments, slightly lower graded ones than this week’s event, and I’ve also done well at grade one tournaments at Bournemouth, Wrexham and Eastbourne, which have given me big points.
Summer tournament at SW19
“This week’s is a grade one ITF event, a Masters 700 tournament, and other grade one events are held at Bournemouth’s West Hants Tennis Club and at Wrexham, a winter event, along with this summer tournament at SW19.
“I played the West Hants tournament for the first time this year when I lost to Laurent Wels, a French player, in a tight semi-final match.
“The Wimbledon tournament is slightly different because they only allow British-born players to enter.
“I’m looking forward to it and I’m also planning to play overseas for the first time in October at a Masters 1000 event in Mallorca.”
Gillespie, who has also played cricket for Shropshire, is a full time tennis coach whose busy role around the county includes working with performance players at Oswestry School.
“Playing tournaments helps with my tennis coaching business,” he added. “I’m really enjoying it and I love competing on court.”
This will be Gillespie’s first experience of playing competitively at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, but he remembers having the opportunity to play there during his school days.
“I played at Wimbledon as a junior,” he said. “I was only 12 at the time and because I was in the top 16 in the country, we were invited to play on the courts during an exhibition event.”
Gillespie is not the only Shropshire player in action at SW19 this week as Dean King, who plays at Newport’s Boughey Gardens Tennis Club, will be playing in the men’s over-40s event.
He and Gillespie were Shropshire team mates in the LTA’s Over-35s County Cup at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park last weekend.
Pictured: Shropshire tennis player Ian Gillespie after winning an ITF tournament at Welwyn Garden City earlier this year.