ILKLEY Lawn Tennis & Squash Club have been unable to stage their pre-Wimbledon ATP and ITF tournament in either 2020 or 2021.

Last year’s Ilkley Trophy was a victim of coronavirus, while the lack of a bio-secure bubble this year means that the tournament, on June 13-20, has been moved to Nottingham.

However, Ilkley LT&SC chairman Chris Brown is confident that the popular event at Stourton Road will be bigger and even better when it returns in June 2022.

The 67-year-old reckons that there are two main reasons for this.

He said: “Firstly, we have done a lot of work on the grass, which ought to make it in absolutely first-rate condition in 2022, and secondly it will not have had as much wear and tear.”

Grass-court tennis being what it is, there is always going to be the odd bad bounce.

The Centre Court at Ilkley has always played well since they first staged the Challenger event in 2015.

But the most marked improvement has been on the second show court – No 1 Court – which at one point received so many complaints from players that it was mothballed during one of the tournaments.

That is now a distant memory though and both main courts have been of Wimbledon standard in both 2018 and 2019.

Help has come from both The All-England Club and Edgbaston Priory and, more recently, from the world-renowned Sports Turf Research Institute in Bingley.

Brown explained: “We have received advice from the Sports Turf Research Institute – in fact we had a review meeting with them only this week.

“The advice has been about things like a combination of fertilisers and how we treat the grass, also scarifying it to make it up to Wimbledon standard, but we can build on what we did in 2019 and have a bigger tournament with bigger hospitality and a bigger capacity.”

Another plus for the tournament, which is always a scenic attraction, has been the friendliness of the tournament volunteers.

Brown, who took over from Stephen Hepplewhite as club chairman in 2019, knows that the contract with the LTA for the men’s and women’s pre-Wimbledon event ceases after next year.

However, this does not seem to worry him and he is confident that they will get a multi-year extension.

He said: “We are the top ITF level pre-Wimbledon tournament and the feedback from the players has been better than for the other tournaments. We also get bigger crowds.”

Hosting tournaments is always a balancing act between gaining national and international publicity for the club while keeping the membership happy, and Brown added: “We hope to open the grass courts for members in early May rather than mid-May.”

Since coronavirus hit, Ilkley LT&SC have not been immune to hardship, although they have made use of available loans.

Brown confessed: “We have lost a lot of members since the start of the pandemic. We had about 2,300 members and have lost about a thousand.

“The gym has been closed and the fitness classes have also stopped. Most of our membership losses are from the gym and we hope to get them back. However, we are financially robust.”

The British Tour is due to begin on Monday, July 26, which is the same week as this year's Ilkley Open, which is not be confused with the aforementioned Ilkley Trophy.