Trio of regional Shropshire winners to step into the spotlight at virtual LTA Tennis Awards

Shropshire’s trio of regional winners in the LTA Tennis Awards will find out later this month if they are also national winners at a virtual ceremony presented by Great Britain Davis Cup captain Leon Smith.

Alex Cleland from Shifnal, the region’s official of the year, at Wimbledon
Alex Cleland from Shifnal, the region’s official of the year, at Wimbledon

Keith Smith, Alex Cleland and the Shropshire County Championships were impressively selected as Midlands winners in their respective categories in April.

They now go forward to the national stages as the LTA prepares to hold its first-ever virtual awards ceremony on Thursday, July 30 at 7pm.

The hour-long event, which will be available to watch via the LTA website, will include a special tribute to Shropshire’s Cathie Sabin, the LTA’s first female president, who sadly passed away in May.

Cathie, who was always so passionate about recognising the many thousands of inspirational individuals involved in tennis, was instrumental in the launch the LTA Awards.

This year’s hat-trick of winners is the most regional success Shropshire has enjoyed since the annual awards were introduced in 2015.

Shropshire supplied more regional winners than any other county across the Midlands, with the other regional victors coming from Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

More than 2,100 nominations were received by the LTA from across Great Britain for the 11 different categories this year.

The national award winners are usually announced each summer at Wimbledon, but with this year’s Championships cancelled owing to Covid-19, the 2020 presentation ceremony will instead be a virtual one.

Leon Smith will be joined by a number of guest presenters, who will announce the winners remotely.

Photos and names of all seven regional nominees, including the Shropshire trio, in each of the categories will be highlighted as national nominees during the ceremony. Three finalists will then be revealed in each section ahead of the various winners being announced.

Sarah Downes, Tennis Shropshire’s LTA Awards co-ordinator, said: “All three of our Shropshire winners were very worthy regional winners and we wish them well when they represent the county on July 30.

“We are looking forward to seeing them featured during the virtual awards ceremony on the LTA’s website.

“We are very proud of their success and hopefully lots of people across the county will be able to watch the ceremony and cheer on our trio of nominees remotely.

“We have so many amazing volunteers and tennis professionals across the county, so it is wonderful that their excellent work continues to be recognised regionally.”

Keith Smith, the recipient of the Midlands lifetime achievement award, joined Newport’s Boughey Gardens Tennis Club in 1958.

He served as both chairman and secretary, while he was also head coach for 43 years, with an impressive number of junior players involved at the club.

Keith represented the county as a player and his many other roles include producing the Shropshire handbook for five years while he also coached the county’s boys squad for more than 20 years.

Keith was awarded an MBE in 2004 in recognition of his contribution to tennis and also Newport’s business community.

Alex Cleland from Shifnal received the region’s official of the year award.

Alex now has his ITF White Badge after passing Level 2 school in Georgia. He has chaired his first matches at Wimbledon in the junior events and line umpired at the US Open for the first time.

Having exceptionally high standards, Alex impressed with his professionalism when he umpired at the International Schools Federation World School Championships in Italy last year.

He also provided training, mentoring and leadership to the other umpires and was asked by the tournament referee to deliver the morning briefings to fellow umpires.

The Shropshire County Championships, selected as competition of the year in the Midlands, continues to thrive with 192 players taking part last year.

The tournament has evolved to create a celebration of tennis across Shropshire, focusing on doubles, with both junior and adult players from across the county encouraged to get involved.

Successfully introducing a county circuit of grade four competitions in the run up to the event has led to players from more rural areas of Shropshire taking part.

You can watch the virtual LTA Awards at 7pm on July 30 by visiting www.lta.org.uk/awards

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