The Manchester Trophy has always had a special place in Naomi Broady’s heart.
Growing up in Stockport, a seven-year-old Broady began playing tennis at her local Northern Tennis Club in West Didsbury, a strikingly salubrious venue made up of pristine grass courts and an equally scenic clubhouse.
And this week the 29-year-old returns to the evocative old club on a wildcard singles ticket, hoping to capture the hearts of all those present by winning a trophy that has so far alluded her throughout her career.
“I’m so excited to be here this week – it was my club as a kid when I was growing up, so for them to have brought a women’s tournament back here is really special,” she told MM.
“I’m so happy to have received a singles wild card – obviously it’s a really special tournament for me and to be given the opportunity to play in the main draw is really special.
“We’re very spoilt as the groundsman does such a great job with the courts here – these are some of the best grass courts in the country after Wimbledon, so we’re very lucky to get on them.
“It would mean so much to me if I was able to go all the way and lift the trophy this year.”
Broady has had a turbulent time of late, however. Indeed, her career-best singles world ranking of No.76 has fallen to No.330 in the past three years, a period that has seen her struggle at Grand Slams and recently avoid participation in the French Open owing to her troublesome relationship with playing on clay.
However, the big-serving Broady – who is still No.86 in the doubles world rankings – remains defiant that things in tennis can change in a short space of time.
“I’ve not had the best time with my results in this past year, but we’re working really hard and playing so well in practice,” she said.
25k Doubles title Thank you @NaomiBroady for playing with me & fighting through all those tiebreaks with me#TiebreakQueens#優勝が世界一嬉しい事#応援ありがとうございました pic.twitter.com/0GN7sZszQ3
— Ayaka Okuno (奥野彩加) (@AyakaOkUNO) May 26, 2019
“We’re just trying to stay patient and hope that it will transfer over to the matches – maybe with the home crowd this will be the week to springboard that.
“It just takes one good tournament in tennis and it can change your year around so we’re just trying to stay patient and keep building my confidence back up.
“Hopefully with the home crowd, that tournament can be this week.”
Broady will play in both the singles and doubles competitions at The Northern this week, two tournaments she has enjoyed relative success at over the past couple of years.
The experienced right-hander reached the semi-finals of the singles in 2017 followed by the final of last year’s doubles event, missing out on an inaugural triumph with partner Asia Muhammad after a 7-6, 6-3 defeat to the dexterous duo of Luksika Kumkhum and Prarthana Thombare.
But Broady appears upbeat going into this year’s competition, gaining momentum after some promising preparation over the last couple of months.
“I’ve just been in Japan for some tournaments which are on an artificial grass surface so it’s more similar to the grass season,” she said.
“Clay definitely isn’t my strong point so I try and avoid that when possible!
“We’ve been on the grass a lot recently actually – the weather’s been quite up and down as I’m sure everybody knows, but I’ve had a couple of hours each day on the grass which I think is probably more than a lot of the girls who are just getting over here now from Roland-Garros.”
BACKING BRITISH BELIEF
If Broady was to achieve a fairytale victory at her home club it would continue a remarkable year for British female tennis, building on Johanna Konta’s historic run at the French Open last week where the No.26 seed defied the odds to reach the last four.
And Broady was eager to express her admiration for Konta, a player who has done so much for the development of the women’s game and laid the foundations for a potentially exciting new epoch for the sport across the UK.
“I think players like Johanna Konta just provide that belief that you can do it too – she’s done so well to carry British women’s tennis forward alongside Heather [Watson],” she explained.
“I think you see so often in tennis times when someone from a country does well and then a couple of other girls or men – the gender doesn’t matter – will often follow.
“I think it just gives them the confidence that if they can do it, so can I.
“Tennis is such a difficult sport but we’re all made to believe that it’s so unachievable when actually it’s not – if you work really hard you can get there and you can be at the top of the sport.”
But what about this competition in particular, a week that will see 700 local schoolchildren attend and make women’s tennis so visible for all in the area?
“Events like the Manchester Trophy are so important for showcasing tennis to the younger generation and stimulating interest in the sport,” she said.
“I really encourage anyone to bring their children along – it’s such a great opportunity to show them a different sport for them to become interested in.
“You’re right up close to the players – it’s not like when you’re at Wimbledon and there’s total separation as you’re basically alongside them on the court.
“I think it’s really inspiring for them – whether they’re going to go on and become professional or not, it can keep them active and just get them into another sport and give them something else to be interested in.”
Broady kicks off her campaign at The Northern tomorrow afternoon, with the Round One singles and doubles draw due to take place later this evening.
If she can go on and achieve glory in front of a buoyant home crowd, that inspiration among younger generations is only going to get greater and greater.