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Pat Cash calls for free tennis coaching to unearth Islington’s answer to Andy Murray

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Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash has called for Islington’s youngsters to be given more free tennis coaching – saying “there’s champions floating around here” if only their potential can be unlocked.

The Aussie sporting great, who memorably lifted the All England Club title in 1987, was launching a new tennis wall in Rosemary Gardens, off Shepperton Road, designed to boost grassroots take-up of the sport.

He gave a masterclass to youngsters aged seven to 15 from Canonbury youth project Urban Hope – who all donned his trademark bandana to strike balls against the wall under his guidance.

Cash, 47, told the Gazette: “The wall is fantastic, all you need is a racquet and ball and away you go. Hopefully they can get some coaching here, that’s the next step.

“There’s champions floating around, there’s no reason why there wouldn’t be. If there’s football champions [coming out of Islington], why not tennis ones?

“It’s the same physical coordination – although there’s probably more skill in tennis, more technique that makes it really tough. That’s why the next step would be free coaching here.

“Ideally that would be offered. It really should be done by the LTA [the sport’s governing body], but that’s another story.”

The wall cost £12,000 to install alongside the park’s two courts, and was jointly funded by Islington Council and Barclays bank.

It may not look too impressive given the pricetag – being essentially a blue wall (in Barclays’ trademark shade) with a white line across it – but Cash said: “I love walls, they’re the best things in the world to practice against, I still practice on them today.

“They’re great for volleys, for sharpening the reflexes.

“I did it when I was a kid first starting out, it’s absolutely the best tennis tool you could possibly have.”

Urban Hope, in Canonbury Road, offers free coaching for youngsters in Rosemary Gardens, but only 12 sessions during summer holidays.

Joy Faulkner, 24, youth and community worker at the project, said: “I absolutely agree with what Pat said. It would be great if the LTA or someone gave us money to offer more really good coaching for young people, it would be so beneficial for them.”

A spokesman for Islington Council said the council offers some group coaching for under-18s as well as to five schools and has just recruited a tennis development officer, who will be part-funded by the LTA.

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