He's senior tennis player of the year - at a mere 91

Leonard Lawrence first picked up a racket during the war, and began playing seriously aged 35


One of the Jewish community’s elder sportsmen is to be awarded the Lawn Tennis Association’s prestigious Senior Men’s Player of the Year - at the age of 91.

Leonard Lawrence, who first picked up a tennis racket during the Second World War, said that he was “very surprised” to learn he was to be honoured at this year’s LTA Awards.

Mr Lawrence has been asked to put together a recording of himself for the digital awards ceremony, and it will be broadcast publicly online on Thursday.

“This is normally held at Wimbledon during the Wimbledon fortnight,” he said, “but because of Covid-19 there will be no Wimbledon this year, so they are doing it online for the first time”.  

Currently ranked 35th in the world in his category by the International Tennis Federations, Mr Lawrence recently hit the best form of his career.

In September 2019, he captained Great Britain to a bronze medal at the Veterans’ World Tennis Championships in Croatia, while he also took home the over-85s Wimbledon Singles title.

“It was only a little cup, as it should be for that age group,” he said.

While Covid-19 has forced the cancellation of upcoming tournaments such as the World Championships in Mallorca, Mr Lawrence was able to keep playing during the pandemic as there is a tennis court where he lives.

He is also the Director and President of Chandos Tennis Club, a historically Jewish tennis club which still has 60 per cent Jewish membership.  

Mr Lawrence says that there almost “no difference” between playing tennis as a 91-year-old compared to when he was younger, “apart from that when I was younger, I used to play pain-free.”

“I have aches and pains,” he explains, “I’ve got new knees and had a shoulder operation, as well as arthritis, but I play through it and it keeps me fit.”

“I am trying to improve,” said Mr Lawrence, “I practise with a lot of younger people, which is an advantage.”

Mr Lawrence added that while he was “probably the best 91-year-old in the world at the moment,” internationally there were stronger players than him in his age group “especially in Germany and the United States.”

He is concerned that his perch at the top of British seniors’ tennis might be coming to an end, as younger players emerge.

“My place will probably change in the years to come,” he said, “as the 88-year olds and 89-year-olds age and improve.”

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