It’s not every day you get to meet your sporting idol, but that is exactly what happened to four members of David Lloyd Raynes Park’s tennis club after they reached the national finals of the inaugural Jaguar Championships.
James Channo, Petter Arentz, Karen Bailey and Tulay Hesketh-Pritchard faced stiff competition from seven other teams at their home facility on Sunday, watched on by former British number one Tim Henman.
The inaugural Jaguar Championships saw 1,200 players from up and down the country battle it out for a spot in Sunday’s finals, where a prize of Wimbledon quarter-finals tickets were up for grabs, plus the opportunity to drive Jaguar’s All-New F-PACE for a weekend of their choice.
And while Raynes Park could not turn home advantage into victory, 41-year-old Channo admitted the opportunity to meet a British hero capped off a thrilling day in south London.
“I am a member of Raynes Park and I have been playing here for four years,” said Channo, who works as a lawyer.
“I was asked to compete in the tournament and was delighted to do so.
“I grew up watching Tim Henman on TV so it was amazing to meet him. He was a very nice guy and very laid back.
“I think the quality of players at the final has been really good. It’s been very competitive but lots of good fun.
“I think it is great to promote tennis and having Jaguar involved is a great way to do this.
“I think we’re seeing how tennis is catching on more, and it’s important we continue do more events like this.”
David Lloyd launched The Jaguar Championships, an inaugural mixed-doubles event which will now feature as part of it 2016 Total Tennis Calendar, and Jaguar-ambassador Henman was the star attraction at the event as he watched all the action get underway.
And after taking to the umpire’s chair to oversee the day’s finals, the 41-year-old admits he was impressed with the talent on show.
“For me, one of the most important things about the Jaguar Championships is the participation, getting more and more people into the game,” said former number four Henman.
“It’s a great opportunity on a lot of different levels and when you see the number of people participating today, I think they’re very happy to have Jaguar’s support.
“I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen. I’ve been watching the tennis and I was quite glad I wasn’t on court because there are some really good players.
“It is a real trip down memory lane for me to be here at the David Lloyd Raynes Park facility because this is where I practiced from 12 years of age when I was part of their academy.
“For five years until I was 17, this is where I came six days a week, and while that was obviously a long time ago, it’s good to be back and see what is going on.
“That is no great surprise because if you get a lot of people playing, the best ones will come through, and with this opportunity of competing in the Jaguar Championships, you’re going to see some good players so that was definitely a good sign.
“I hope that the Jaguar Championships can grow and continue to encourage more people to play the game and give more opportunities to them.”
Tim Henman was speaking at The Jaguar Championships as part of Jaguar’s partnership with David Lloyd Leisure. Visit http://www.jaguar.co.uk/jaguar-range/f-pace/index.html to find out more about the F-PACE, the Official Car of The Championships, Wimbledon