RIK Smith is looking back at the Ilkley Trophy with a mixture of pride and relief.

Tournament director Smith, who is also Ilkley Lawn Tennis & Squash Club’s chairman, admitted that a few months before the prestigious grass-court tournament he had doubts about its success, chiefly because the event hadn’t been held for two years due to the pandemic.

However, the sixth edition of the Trophy, which is now a $125,000 ATP Challenger and a $100,000 ITF Women’s World Tour event, was a resounding success.

And it also proved good preparation for Wimbledon for the players, with four men and five women who played at Ilkley making it through Wimbledon qualifying the following week at Roehampton, and four men and four women who featured at Ilkley then winning their first-round matches at Wimbledon.

Smith reflected on the crowds through the week at Ilkley, the quality of the tennis, the standard of the courts, the work of the volunteers and the success of the hospitality packages offered by the tournament.

He admitted: “We have been overwhelmed by the crowds. Even going back to qualifying, we had some of the best crowds we have ever seen, and throughout the week the crowds have continued to come down (to the club).

“The general level of tennis and the general level of the event has been beyond what we could have hoped for, and with all of the issues and problems that we have had to deal with this year, such as (head groundsman) Richard Lord dying (in the spring) and re-establishing the tournament, we have to be hugely pleased with how it has gone.

“Richard put a lot of work into the courts over the past two years and had a stringent maintenance programme on them.

“It is obviously always affected by the conditions and the seasonal changes, and the severity of those, but we were in a good place even around the time of his death, and then the club team stepped in and Will Rigg (Lord’s former No 2) returned, and the courts have probably been the best that we have ever seen them.

“If the players aren’t complaining that says it all and you have probably got them right.”

Smith added: “As for the volunteers, a couple of months ago we were probably a little bit worried with the tournament having been away for a couple of years and maybe that enthusiasm for the tournament had been lost or they had forgotten about taking part in it, but Simon (Ickringill) and Marione (Horsley) have done a fantastic job in getting those 150 together to service the tournament throughout the week, and they do a brilliant job, and those who are stuck out on the car park can be very unsung as well.

“This tournament has created an atmosphere that is second to none, and that is partly what we are known for on tour - whether that be the players, the officials, the spectators.

“That is the feedback that we get and it is an incredibly friendly place, and that is reflected in how the tournament is run.”

Smith added: “The hospitality side of things was excellent. We got off to a slow start to release the hospitality packages and food and beverages advertised with the late announcement of the tournament.

“Bearing that in mind, we have done fantastically well and the feedback has been very positive.”