Local Tennis Leagues player finds strength and mindfulness on Battersea Park courts

For south west London resident Derya Yilmaz, there are few things that compare to tennis when it comes to motivation.

Not only helping with a healthy lifestyle, the sport has helped with working long hours and socialising in London – with little aiding the social aspects more than the Local Tennis Leagues.

But that’s not all. Everyone deals with grief in different ways and when Derya lost her father, she also found strength and salvation on the tennis courts of Battersea Park.

Derya’s father was admitted to hospital late last year and the 38-year-old immediately returned to Turkey to be with him and family, losing him in October and returning to London the next month.

Her father was always interested to hear about her tennis matches and encouraged her to play more and be more active.

She had been a member of the Battersea Park Tennis League since 2012, playing in 23 rounds and taking to the courts all year round whatever the weather.

Derya struggled to get back to the sport on her return to London, but when she eventually picked up a racket again in March she realised it was exactly what she needed.

“I managed to play one game when I got back and it was nice, I was going through some tough times and I pushed myself because I did feel better after that match,” said the Shell Trading Finance Advisor.

“I knew playing more would help, but I was finding it difficult to motivate myself.

“At the beginning, I was not talking about my grief, but more and more I saw other people who were going through the same thing and talking about grief is becoming less of a taboo – I want to break that even more, it helps a lot with the recovery.

“It’s not an easy thing to go through and you have to find things that will help, like tennis helped me.

“All my family are in Turkey, I got back to London and started work again, tennis helped me a lot as well as my friends and colleagues who have been very supportive during those times.”

Derya plays her matches in a Local Tennis League, part of a nationwide LTA initiative aimed at adults who use public parks and facilities and want to play friendly, competitive tennis.

When she first arrived in London, she had difficulty finding a place to play regularly and was delighted when she saw the Local Tennis League banners in Battersea Park.

Derya has now played in 23 rounds of the league, which is one of many LTA ventures, as the governing body of tennis in the UK is investing more than £125 million on public access tennis to help change perceptions of the sport.

After signing up, Derya could create an online account where she received contact details of her opponents to schedule matches as well as regular updates, reminders and incentives to play.

And tennis continues to serve as a big motivation and strength for Derya, who looks forward to her matches after intense days working in the oil trading industry.

“It helps me a lot to manage my work stress, sometimes I leave work very tired, carrying my tennis gear and getting lost in thoughts of things to do next day on the bus,” she added.

“But as soon as I get on court and play tennis for an hour or two I feel completely reenergised and focusing on the match is like a mindfulness exercise, so I find it really helps me generally.

“It’s helped me with the tough times I’ve gone through, it took a while to get back but once I was in it, it made a difference.

“London is an amazing city with tennis facilities and accessibility to general public and Local Tennis League is a great way to play more tennis and regularly in a friendly environment, so make the most of it!”

Are you looking to play more friendly, competitive singles matches? The next round of the Battersea Park Women’s Tennis League begins on 30 November 2017.  To join, visit and sign up before 27 November 2017. The rounds last eight weeks and cost £18 to join.

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