09 Jun 2014
Brighton boy Jacob Kelly and Abby Kelliher from Tyneside have proven themselves to be Grand Slam champions in the making after beating over 900 children to be crowned male and female tennis stars of the future in the final of Virgin Active's 'Search for a Tennis Ace', a nationwide talent search for young British tennis talent.
The final, attended by 40 children aged between 5 and 8 years old from all over the UK, took place at Virgin Active Chiswick Riverside on Saturday 7 June and was judged by British tennis player Laura Robson, the LTA’s Head of Performance Tennis Simon Jones and Virgin Active's National Racquets Programme Coordinator Simon Pearson.
Abby and Jacob beat off stiff competition in their regional heats last month before progressing to the final where they faced tough competition from 38 other girls and boys. Before being awarded first place by Laura Robson, Abby and Jacob were put through their paces in a series of exercises that tested agility, hand eye co-ordination, rallying and racquet skills and all round athleticism.
As the winners, Abby and Jacob receive a three year membership to Virgin Active for themselves and their families, three years top level coaching at the club, a racquet and clothing deal with Wilson and a once in a lifetime chance to get top tips from Laura Robson.
Laura Robson, Virgin Active ambassador and 'Search for a Tennis Ace' judge commented: "I feel incredibly privileged to have been part of this process to find the next tennis ace of the future, and would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Abby and Jacob. They displayed some serious skills on court today and stood out from the start.
"The level of talent from the girls today was particularly impressive, it was tough out there and Abby rose to the challenge. It's clear she loves the game and has a real competitive spirit. I have no doubt Abby is one to watch for the future."
Simon Jones, Head of Performance Tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association commented: "Abby and Jacob demonstrated a really high skill level, and clearly have a passion for sport which is great to see. It was really inspiring to see so much talent in the room, but they both stood out to all the judges."
Matt Merrick, Managing Director of Virgin Active comments: "On behalf of Virgin Active I would like to congratulate Abby and Jacob on their fantastic achievements. It's exciting to think that at only seven years of age they are showing such athleticism and a focus beyond their years.
"It was great to see so many energetic and passionate youngsters on court today, the Active Aces programme is about having fun whilst engaging with the sport and our competitors embodied that fully today. Our mission with Active Aces is to attract children into the sport earlier and give them a skill for life, we think that Abby and Jacob are going to be great examples of this."
Virgin Active's 'Search for a Tennis Ace' was developed in partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). The competition is in its first year and is part of an ongoing commitment from Virgin Active to select two children a year (one girl and one boy) for the next three years to develop and nurture. The competition is part of the health club’s wider Active Aces coaching programme which is now available in all 21 Virgin Active Health and Racquet clubs in the UK.
The Active Aces tennis programme will serve up progressive, action-packed coaching sessions that will enable youngsters to benefit, whatever their ability. The newly designed programme will take budding tennis hot shots from aged three onwards through a series of different bands – from "tots" right through to "junior active ace".