Tom Hands makes the most of late call to compete in the UK Pro Classic
By Will Jennings
Tom Hands hopes tennis is coming home as the UK Pro Series eyes up a potential new event in Cambridge.
Hands, who trains at Hills Road Tennis Academy, slid to a 12th-placed finish at the tournament after a 6-4, 1-6, 10-6 final day defeat against Mark Whitehouse.
The 23-year-old was never meant to play in Classic Week in the first place, however, replacing Anton Matusevich after the British No 16 was disqualified for getting stuck in traffic and missing his fourth match.
The UK Pro Series is targetting a 2021 expansion and Hands, who hails from Fulbourn, is relishing the potential prospect of competing in front of a home crowd.
“I think it’s been incredible. I’ve loved this format and everyone here has been so friendly,” he said.
“It’s been so well-run that I really hope they play more of these in the future and they put more of them on.
“It’s been phenomenal and I’d absolutely welcome the tournament being expanded - I think this would be a great transition that can be built on.
“I hear they’re going to try and set it up in different cities around the country to make it more accessible to the whole country, so I think it will be a great idea.
“I think they made a slight verbal agreement that once they get it up and running they’d bring it down there [Cambridge]! They said maybe one day in the future, hopefully.
“It would be awesome. There are plenty of lovely clubs round there, and it would be absolutely phenomenal if I could play in front of my home fans.
“That will really help the county spirit get behind the local players.
“The county might be able to put a wildcard in of one of the top juniors as the event travels round the cities, and I think that would be a great way to encourage county tennis.”
Hands was one of 24 leading players competing in the widely-billed Premier League of tennis alongside the likes of Naomi Broady and Jodie Burrage in the women’s draw and James Ward and Liam Broady in the men’s.
The innovative format was devised by Andy Murray’s coach, Jamie Delgado, with players on Classic Week being split into two boxes of six ahead of finals weekend.
Hands delivered a valiant display against British No 6 Broady but lost 7-5, 6-3, before beating Billy Harris and then losing against Henry Patten and Whitehouse.
It’s been a mixed experience for the former Drake University student but with the tournament being live streamed on several digital platforms, he says he has welcomed an unprecedented level of exposure.
“This level of tennis isn’t seen as much as it would be in other countries, but this week’s been so good because it’s been live streamed and people have been able to watch it so much,” he added.
“Often us players don’t get that much exposure. I’ll take the whole week off and then the week after that I’ll be back training again ahead of the next tournaments.
“I’ll play some ITF events in Europe and also get back playing in the international tournaments.”
* 12 of the UK’s top women and men qualified through the UK Pro Series for the UK Pro Classic - widely billed as the Premier League of Tennis. For more information, visit ukproseries.com.