Olivia Nicholls, WTA Tour Tennis star has had an amazing couple of weeks. Starting with helping to organise and compete in The Progress Tour Women’s Championships and playing alongside Andy and Jamie Murray in last weeks Battle of the Brits. Both events are part of a summer programme of events organised to prepare Britains top tennis players for a return to the professional tour. Norfolk LTA interviewed Olivia to find out what she made of the experience.
“After Jamie Murray had set up the Battle of the Brits for Men, my doubles partner and I thought why not do something similar for the Women. Me and Alicia Barnett spoke to Barry Fulcher (a fellow Norfolk ex pro player and Tournament Director for the Progress Tour) about running the event “. What transpired was a tournament played at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, between 14-18th July. The event bought together the top 16 British WTA singles competitors and the top 8 British Women’s Doubles teams.
Olivia and Alicia went on to win the Doubles event. Olivia said “Going into the tournament it was tough to know what to expect as I hadn’t competed for some time. I had been working hard during lockdown and was happy with how I played. The doubles win was fantastic, I was playing singles for the first time in 2.5 years. To make the semi finals of the tier 1 singles event was also really pleasing”.
Days later, Olivia was invited by Jamie Murray to take part in The Battle of the Brits. The event was again hosted at the NTC between 27th July – 2nd August. “It was an absolutely amazing experience. To be in the same team as Andy and Jamie was unbelievable, Judy Murray and Greg Rusedski were great captains. Judy was brilliant on court, giving us really good tips especially in the Ladies doubles. To play with Jamie was an incredible experience especially in the night match against Johanna Konta (WTA ranked 14) and Cameron Norrie (ATP 77). I had never been part of playing with such high calibre players. We lost 4-6, 5-7 but it was great for me to realise I can compete at that level and this has motivated me to keep going and keep pushing on”.
Despite some long days, with play often ending at 9pm, Olivia said the camaraderie between the players was brilliant. “We set up a group whats app chat, which is still going on now. Dan Evans was so vocal, every morning he would go to Halfords to collect horns and Andy Murray was really supportive and funny. I don’t know if it came across on TV but the banter between teams was very entertaining. It was so good to be around these guys for the whole week. There is already talk of a Union Jacks Team Reunion, it will be great to catch up with the team “.
The event reached the final day with both teams tied at 45 pts each. Olivia said it was an amazing finish to the week. “When Andy and Naomi won a second set tie break to clinch a win and take things to the final rubber the atmosphere was unbelievable. It was a shame the Union Jacks couldn’t get over the line in the decisive rubber but Joe and Harriet were just too good despite our best support from the sideline”.
With many of these players taking part in the US Open later this month, it is great to see Britain’s top players preparing for life back on the tour. For Olivia, a return to professional tennis is uncertain. “I don’t know when or where my next pro match will be. Things are still very much up in the air at the moment. Even though the US Open is going ahead, there are not many ITFs being played and all the British ITFs are cancelled so we will have to wait and see when I can start travelling again. In the mean time I will keep playing domestic events and keep training – get back in the gym”.
Report by Stu Silvester
Olivia and partner Alicia Barnett win The Progress Tour Women’s Championships