Time is running out for ‘Ken the tennis player’ but the final curtain will have to wait a little longer after Ken Skupski and Jonny O’Mara booked their place in round two at Wimbledon.
Liverpool’s Skupski, who benefits from the LTA’s NTC Access programme, providing cost-free access to courts, coaching, trainers and the LTA’s tournament bonus scheme, announced that this year’s Wimbledon would be his last tournament as a professional.
And he and O’Mara made the perfect start in the men’s doubles, completing an emphatic 6-2 6-3 6-4 win over Chilean pair Alejandro Tabilo and Julio Peralta after the match was suspended overnight with the Brits up a set and a break.
Skupski is also set to play in the mixed doubles here – alongside Heather Watson – and is relishing these final few days as a professional.
He said: “The crowd were lively. That always helps, being a Brit. We didn’t give them anything to feed off.
“I wanted to get (the retirement announcement) out of the way on Saturday to give me three or four days to let it digest for myself. It’s like asking someone to marry you, you don’t actually know what it’s going to be like until you do it.
“So far, I’ve had a really great response. It’s nice to have positive feedback. It will be sad long-term to look back and think it’s over because I’m ‘Ken the tennis player’, that’s all I’ve ever been known as.
“But I’m also looking forward to the future as well. It’s nice that I’ve still got my brother who is doing well, he’s flying the flag. I’ll do a bit of travel with him so I’ve got other things I’m looking forward to as well.”
Skupski’s younger brother Neal, the No.3 seed in the doubles alongside Wesley Koolhof, finished his round two match shortly before the elder Skupski and O’Mara completed their win.
As well as providing Neal with support on tour, Ken also has some bigger ambitions in his post-playing career.
He added: “I’ve started a doubles academy at home and it’s done really well in that people have acknowledged and questioned what that is all about. As a nation, we are a doubles nation on a social level and I feel like I can help all spectrum of doubles, not just the pro level.
“It will be nice to give back and I’ll be looking forward to that next stage.
“It won’t ramp up until I do stop. My coach for the last 15 years is Anthony Hardman and we’ve come up with the idea that there is a bit of a niche because there are not many academies with doubles specific things.
“The Skupski Doubles Academy, as it’s called, is working in conjunction a company called We Do Tennis which affiliated with the LTA and works to kickstart tennis in communities.”
The academy will be based in Liverpool, with Skupski able to dedicate his focus to it along with getting spend more time with his three boys.
For now though, there is the matter of a final Wimbledon campaign which will be taking priority for ‘Ken the tennis player’s’ final fortnight.
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