At the end of a year which saw both the Senior and U16 girls lose only once, the Senior boys win the Independent Schools League and a total of 29 teams across all year groups take to the court, it’s fair to say tennis has never been so popular or successful at Bradfield. All that has taken place within an award-winning tennis hub, home to two-time Berkshire LTA Club of the Year. 

Serving both the pupils and the wider community, Bradfield tennis is booming and has undergone a revolution on both fronts over the last decade. A pivotal player in it all has been Damian Fuller, Director of Tennis, who, after ten years at the College, reflects on the changes which have propelled the sport into the limelight. 

Tennis pupils now have a sense of belonging while we have a space in which the whole coaching team has become a cohesive unit to better serve our community.

Back in 2011, it would have been difficult to envisage fielding 29 teams with just five full-time courts available, two of which were outdoor hard courts which couldn’t be used all year round. “Nothing disheartened me more than when, coaching on all three indoor courts, a pupil would peer through the Tennis Centre door and I would see the look of disappointment on their face, knowing they had nowhere else to play tennis”, says Damian, looking back on his early days. “Trying to run both a College and commercial programme on just three courts was really tough.”

That all changed five years ago. Following a successful pilot scheme run on two newly renovated and floodlit hard courts which facilitated an extension to the commercial activities, six state-of-the-art clay courts were built, making Bradfield one of the premier centres for tennis across all of Berkshire and one of the biggest for schools tennis in the country.




It has been a game-changer for Damian and his team. “The expansion allowed us to create a tennis hub, an anchor around which pupils can find all our major facilities and coaches. Tennis pupils now have a sense of belonging while we have a space in which the whole coaching team has become a cohesive unit to better serve our community.”

The combination of better facilities and dedication of the coaches has enabled the creation of a performance pathway, for those committed pupils who are looking to excel and compete throughout their time at the College, while also providing for pupils who want to improve their game and have a taste of representing the school in the sport. “It has inspired pupils across all year groups and abilities to flourish”, adds Damian. “Pupils who play tennis and like the sport, but not necessarily in the performance arena, have achieved great things for the College.” 

It is an impressive list of honours over the last five years. The Senior boys finished runners up at the national finals at Bolton, a mixed-doubles team of four also made the national finals and the Year 9/10 girls and boys have each won three regional LTA divisional titles in a row. The school are also Independent Schools League Champions for the first time in the College’s history, a competition which has been going for nearly 30 years.

There have also been successful appearances at the Independent Schools Girls’ Tennis League, a competition which sees 96 pupils from eight schools compete in a mixed age-range tournament with Damian an advocate for competitions which support this. “I think that’s the beauty of tennis. The physicality of the game is not like the invasion sports; if a player is skilful they can stand their ground and I think that’s another great offering which Bradfield provides.” 


The development of the performance pathway for College athletes, which provides ten hours a week of coaching and three strength and conditioning sessions, has seen its first Bradfieldian go on to attain a Scholarship to study Engineering at Union in New York. There are a number of pupils who are looking at a similar route after they leave Bradfield and for Damian it represents the perfect outcome.

“Pupils might arrive here and pick tennis as their major sport but know they are here primarily for their education. What is great about Bradfield is the two go hand-in-hand. Pupils can develop skills in academic studies which help them on the court and vice versa, enabling them to become better players and better all-round people. Seeing pupils who show dedication to carry on academic study and their love of the sport beyond Bradfield because of their journey here is very rewarding.”

Such has been the growth that recognition came from the President of the Lawn Tennis Association, David Rawlinson, who visited to witness the evolution of tennis in schools. David was able to join in for a hit with pupils while also discussing future developments with the Headmaster and Director of Sport.

The externally facing Bradfield Tennis Club has enjoyed a similar upwards trajectory. Alongside the clay courts, members have benefitted from a refurbishment of the indoor centre which included a new terrace seating area. In recent years Berkshire LTA have awarded Bradfield Club of the Year twice, Selena Coburn was named Regional Official of the Year in 2019 while in 2020 current College pupil Tina (J) was awarded Young Person of the Year and Damian himself named as Performance Coach of the Year. 

“Our relationship with Berkshire LTA has never been stronger. We are now the administrative and performance hub for County Championships, overseeing the girls and boys U12s, U14s and also the U18s girls. The clay courts really were the catalyst; they’ve helped us expand our offering to the College, the community and Berkshire LTA.”

It’s certainly looking like a bright future for Bradfield tennis.