A nine-year-old boy from Neath who is taking the tennis world by storm has been selected to represent Great Britain next month - and is one of the youngest players ever chosen. Fletcher Davies started accompanying his mum, who is a tennis coach, to her lessons when he was just two months old.

By the age of two, he could get a rally over the net, recalled his proud mum, Melissa, and he began competing at a local club level when he was five. He started playing at major events when he was six and has since risen meteorically through the ranks.

"Too strong" for his own age-group, he plays at the level above - sometimes against children who are "two foot taller than him" - and is now is ranked second in GB, said his dad, Leighton. A passion for tennis runs in the family's blood, but Fletcher's parents said his "determination and gutsiness makes him a bit different". For the latest Neath Port Talbot news, sign up to our newsletter here

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'He would come to the lessons in his pram'

Fletcher, left, pictured with his mum, Melissa, right.
Fletcher used to accompany his mum, Melissa, to her tennis lessons when he was just a baby

Both Leighton, 50, and Melissa, 47, have played tennis since they were young, with Melissa turning to it full-time, while Leighton became an accountant. In the three decades Melissa has been a coach, for ten of those years she's been the head coach at Whitchurch Tennis Club in Cardiff.

Fletcher came onto the club's courts with her when he was just a baby. "He would come to my lessons in his pram...As soon as he could sit up, I used to roll the ball to him and he stopped it with a racket," said Melissa. For the latest Cardiff news, sign up to our newsletter here

It wasn't long before he could stand up and swing a racket himself. "I think I started playing when I just started walking," he said. His precocious success in tennis is not the first time the family has been recognised for their involvement in the sport, however.

Fletcher's brother, Sebastian, made headlines during lockdown after he went viral on TikTok for posting videos of tennis challenges. Then aged 13, Sebastian had created over 100 daily challenge videos with the help of Fletcher, who was five at the time - and their videos even caught the attention of Wimbledon.

'He's an entertainer'

Since he was six years old, Fletcher has played more than 320 matches and has won more than 250 of them. Today he trains for hours a day, fitting practice around school and splitting his time between Whitchurch Tennis Club, Swansea Tennis Centre - where Melissa also coaches - and other courts.

"It's just finding balance...Tennis is quite unforgiving. You either commit to it [or you don’t]...it’s what Fletcher wants to do, it’s not something we’re driving," said Leighton. The youngster's commitment to tennis has seen him travel all over the country, and even internationally, to play tournaments. A recent highlight was winning the LTA Lexus Junior National Tour under-10 event in Bolton at the start of April.

Fletcher with his latest trophy
Fletcher with his latest trophy after winning the LTA Lexus Junior National Tour under-10 event in Bolton

Before that, in January, he made his first international trip, accompanied by his mum and brother, to play at the Lemon Bowl in Italy, which was also his first time playing on clay. “It was a year above again - the top juniors in Europe, and some of the top Italians ranked in the world," said Leighton.

The schoolboy ended up losing on just one point in the champions tie break - but when he did win elsewhere in the tournament, his celebrations were "something else", laughed Leighton, who watched it online. A self-professed "entertainer" on the court, Fletcher's favourite thing is to "get the crowd going" - but he admitted he got "nervous" when he was playing one-on-one.

As for what's next, in 2025 he will travel even further, to Croatia and then Miami for the Junior World Championships. But before that, he's been picked to play for Great Britain in the under-11 age group against France in Nottingham in early May. He'll spend three days there on his own with coaches in the GB camp. One of the youngest ever to be selected for such a feat, he said he was "extremely" excited.

Fletcher will represent Great Britain against France in May
Fletcher will represent Great Britain against France in May

His talent has also been recognised by sport equipment manufacturer Wilson, which has provided sponsorship. In March, Wilson also gifted Fletcher a racket, signed by Greek pro Stefanos Tsitsipas - one of Fletcher's favourite players - with a personal message to the youngster wishing him good luck.

The support is something the family are hugely grateful for. "[Tennis] is a nice journey, but it is very expensive. It's a very unfair playing field, too, in so much as how affluent a lot of people that play tennis are," said Leighton. "We know people are paying sometimes £200,000 a year for the kids to be coached in America in IMG [Academy]. Credit to them - we've got no grudge. We just compete with them."

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'We're proud of him anyway'

Fletcher has no doubt achieved far more than most children his age - and his drive is spurred on by an endearing confidence in his own ability. Asked about his future ambitions, the schoolboy laughed: "I reckon I’ll just play tennis all my life, really, and probably just go and win every Grand Slam then."

It's something Fletcher genuinely believes he'll achieve - and the family are right behind him. "That’s his ambition…we just support him," said Leighton "The big thing that we found with Fletcher...He picks anything up and he's just got to keep doing it until he perfects it. When he's under pressure, it doesn't affect him. He does the right things. The national coach says to him: 'You're the youngest here, but you're the gutsiest here.'"

Fletcher pictured with his family
Fletcher pictured with his family, including his mum, Melissa (middle), his dad, Leighton (far right), his brother, Sebastian (second from right) and his grandparents (left)

But, regardless of his accomplishment in the sport, Leighton and Melissa said they were "proud of him anyway". "He's such a lovable, nice kid, and he's got good values. So we're more proud of that, really," said Leighton. "He's just turned nine - who knows what happens next week? We just enjoy [doing tennis] now. We do our best now. If we don't enjoy it now, if Fletcher doesn't enjoy it now, we keep telling him: 'There's no point doing this.'" Support award-winning journalism with WalesOnline’s Premium app on Apple or Android

Whitchurch Tennis Club facing closure

Whitchurch Tennis Club is where it all began for Fletcher and it remains an integral part of the family's life: in addition to being a key practising ground for Fletcher, it is Melissa's livelihood and Sebastian and Leighton play for its men's first team. The club has also been a great support for Fletcher's thriving tennis career. "When we went to the Lemon Bowl, Whitchurch was a big contributor in the expense of it. All the members gave money towards Fletcher going and the club itself gave £250," Leighton said.

But to the family's dismay, the club - which has been running for more than 110 years and has been on its current site since 1946 - is facing closure to make way for a housing development. The club, which is based just off St Francis Road in the north Cardiff suburb, has seven all-weather hard courts, a practice wall, club house, and around 300 members.

It is one of a few privately-owned tennis clubs in the city and a new 15-year lease that was agreed in March, 2021, has three break clauses. The landlords said it was "no longer financially viable" for them for the club to remain on site and they are considering the redevelopment for the interests of their children.

Whitchurch Tennis Club has been on its current site since 1946
Whitchurch Tennis Club has been on its current site since 1946

Leighton said the club was more than just a tennis club, but a vital community hub and its closure would be a "disaster", while Fletcher said he would be "gutted" if it shut. Its courts are also used by local schools, an LGBTQ+ inclusive tennis group and a charity that helps people with disabilities to get involved in tennis, while various other activities - tai chi, board games and yoga - are hosted in its clubhouse.

"[It] would not only affect us alone," said Leighton. "It would also be so detrimental to so many diverse groups of people within the community who rely so heavily on the club.” Mike Lubienski, the club's chairman, said the uncertainty of the club's future "in some ways it makes it more difficult for us to run the club - in the sense it’s difficult to plan ahead in any purposeful way."

He added: [We have to] to be canny with our money and think carefully about what is worth spending in light of… how many years we’ll get out of them - and bear in mind we’ll need to have a pot of money available in case we incur legal fees in defending our position."

He also said there was "a great will to keep the club going". "There is a very strong sense of what its value is to Whitchurch and how a suburb like Whitchurch needs facilities like the tennis club to be part of the quality of life that we all enjoy. It’s a facility that’s really embedded into the community - most of our members are from the local area, lots of people walk and cycle to the club."

Fletcher and his family say Whitchurch Tennis Club is more than just a club, but a vital community hub
Fletcher and his family say Whitchurch Tennis Club is more than just a club, but a vital community hub

In response, the landlords commented: "Whitchurch Tennis Club (previously known as Park Lawn Tennis Club) was originally located on a different site in Whitchurch, but they had to leave as the Landlord was selling the site for housing.

"Our Grandfather (as a personal favour to one club member that he knew from church) permitted the club to use his land adjacent to the houses he built in St Francis Road. They were granted short term leases only at the beginning, then one long term lease. The new lease granted in 2021 is the first lease that has break clauses in it and permits us choice on the use of our land.

"Our family have supported this club for over 70 years with low rentals. We have not been allowed to increase the rent from the level set in 2015. It is no longer financially viable to our family. We have been working hard to find an alternative site for the club in the locality, but to date have been "blocked" in our endeavours. Whitchurch Tennis Club have not engaged with us to proactively find a new site, but are instead battling against us to prevent this happening.