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Tennis fever helps club net new stars

PUBLISHED: 11:20 26 June 2008 | UPDATED: 09:54 23 August 2010

BALL BOYS: Michael Suleau with former British star player Tim Henman.

BALL BOYS: Michael Suleau with former British star player Tim Henman.

WIMBLEDON fever is gripping tennis clubs according to a coach who revealed that membership is soaring with the start of the tournament. Mechel Suleau, 50, head coach at Gravesham Tennis Club, said the famous tournament increased his numbers, but told the

WIMBLEDON fever is gripping tennis clubs according to a coach who revealed that membership is soaring with the start of the tournament.

Mechel Suleau, 50, head coach at Gravesham Tennis Club, said the famous tournament increased his numbers, but told the Reporter that the real challenge starts when the Grand Slam finishes.

The club in Milton Road, Gravesend, usually sees numbers rise a few days into the famous south west London competition.

Mr Suleau said: "When Wimbledon is on many more people take up the sport. Two or three days after it starts everybody starts to take an interest in tennis.

"We have to do our best to keep them after they've joined though. We try to make them welcome to the club, explain what they should do and help them out a lot. We make the most out of it by doing a lot of publicity before the event."

The head coach also revealed he met John McEnroe and Tim Henman in 2006 when his son Michael, 15, played against retired British number one Henman after winning a tennis competition.

Mr Suleau's son Michael, 15, attends the club and made the final of the national Road to Wimbledon junior competition in 2006. The teenager is also the number two seed in Kent in the under 16 category.

Mr Suleau said: "You have got to be rich in this country to be able to be a tennis player. My son is one of the best kids in the country but unfortunately I am not a rich man and I cannot fund him all the way. It is different back home in France.

"We met John McEnroe and Tim Henman in 2006 when my son won the Talent Identification competition. McEnroe did some training with Michael and then Michael played against Henman. About 10 boys and 10 girls won from across the whole country. It was a great day. Michael really benefited from the training with McEnroe, it was really inspiring."

The father and son also met world number two Rafael Nadal last year when Michael was called up to do a demonstration with the Spanish ace.

Club manager Roy Dinnis added: "We have experienced the Wimbledon effect - we are getting more calls in now and we would expect our membership to go up from 230 to 270, which is quite a

lot really.

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