Tennis academy hailed a winner

The Scots captain of Britain’s Davis Cup tennis team said Judy Murray’s efforts to open a world-class tennis academy is a “no-brainer”.

Glasgow-born Leon Smith has thrown his weight behind controversial plans for a tennis academy on green belt land in Dunblane. “The centre is a complete no-brainer,” said Smith. “It would provide a legacy that could really gather momentum.”

On Tuesday, Smith paid a visit to his former secondary school, Hutchesons’ Grammar in south Glasgow, his first time back since leaving 23 years ago. He was honoured at an awards ceremony to recognise his sporting success. Team GB’s Davis Cup victory last year was the first time in 79 years a British squad had won the competition.

Smith credited his former school for laying the foundations of his achievements in adult life.

He told pupils: “I learnt a lot from my time at Hutchie. I learnt you are judged on how you are. I also learnt how to project myself well and how to be a team player.”

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Smith recalled that he was often allowed to take time off school to attend tennis competitions. “It wasn’t like I missed a lot of class time but if I had to leave early on a Friday, it was never a problem. The teachers were always positive and flexible. I’m grateful for the support they gave me.”

Mike Martin, senior depute rector at Hutchesons’, said: “Leon puts his success down to doing more homework and being better prepared than the other countries in the Davis Cup. That echoes our message here in school. I’d like to thank him for bringing the Davis Cup to Great Britain and to Hutchesons’.”

Smith, who is the Lawn Tennis Association’s head of men’s tennis and the performance director at Tennis Scotland, called for more investment in local clubs. He said the vagaries of the British weather are a “challenge” that could be mitigated if more clubs built “skin domes” — lightweight structures that transform outdoor courts into an indoor playing arena.

Scottish ministers will decide whether to back Murray’s Park of Keir tennis development after it was turned down by Stirling council. The centre — between Dunblane and Bridge of Allan — would consist of a 12-court tennis venue, golfing facilities, a hotel and 19 luxury homes.

Opponents claim it would set a “dangerous” precedent for building on green belt land. A spokesman for Residents Against Greenbelt Erosion said: “This is a housing development with tennis and other sports attached, not the other way round. No convincing case has been presented for the need.”