Tennis, more than any other sport in T&T, can boast of progress. The year 2017 was used strategically to position T&T to be the hub for the sport in the Central American and Caribbean region, and from all indications, the goals appear well within reach.
TennisTT executive team—president Hayden Mitchell, secretary Jermille Danclar, assistant secretary Dr Warren Steele and treasurer, Dexter Mahase continue to chart a steady developmental course for the sport and its stakeholders, with a vision on having a T&T player among the top 150 in the world by the year 2025.
The Evert Tennis Academy, a leading tennis development programme in the United States formed in 1996 and owned by the brother and sister tandem of John and 18-time Grand Slam Champion Christine “Chris” Evert, visited in January 2017 to have exploratory talks with the Association, Sportt, and the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs with a view towards developing a partnership that would see an exchange of players, coaches and other officials for the benefit of local and regional tennis aficionados.
Although terms and conditions are still to be finalised, players are already able to access camps and other training programmes at discounted rates, Dr Steele explained.
In February, the TennisTT also revived club tennis with an Inter-Club League to encourage team club competition beyond the junior level. Clubs fielded teams of five players—each team had to have at least one female and one over 45 male player. The league was well received by the clubs with San Fernando Tennis Club emerging as the eventual champion.
Meanwhile, national and international junior competition was high on the association’s agenda according to Steele who reported that in addition to sending U14/U16 teams to the World Junior Tennis Championships and JITIC in the Dominican Republic and Junior Davis Cup/Junior Fed Cup in El Salvador, the Federation also hosted an U18 JITIC tournament and an U12 Development Championship right here at the National Racquet Centre in Tacarigua.
One of the two teams fielded by T&T won the Under-12 Championship and when went on to represent the country at the finals in Mexico.
TennisTT also hosted two ITF junior circuit events in 2017 for Under-12, 14, and 18 players, namely the Trinity Cup in March and the Tobago ITF in August, the latter of which was hosted in Trinidad at the NRC due to unsuitable playing conditions and lack of funding for repairs at the usual Shaw Park venue in the sister-isle.
The Tobago House of Assembly through Secretary Jomo Pitt came to its assistance by providing $100, 000 while another substantial amount by the Ministry of Tobago Development, helped to ensure this major sports tourism event came off albeit in Trinidad.
“These tournaments along with our national junior development performance programme where elite juniors are trained by dedicated coaches with special emphasis on preparation for national duty go a long way in establishing a clear competitive pathway right through to senior level. Anneliese Rose, who represented T&T at the Fed Cup Americas Zone Group II in the Dominican Republic, received a prestigious award from ITF after representing the red, white and black in 46 ties winning 51 of her 77 matches. That, along with our showing at the Commonwealth Youth Games, is true testimony to the talent still to be harnessed,” Steele said.
The highlight for the Hayden Mitchell-led tennis association, however, was the visits by both ITF Consultant Gustavo Granitto and Italian Luca Santilli, both of whom are fully in support of the TennisTT’s initiatives.
Granitto, an ITF Consultant, supported the vision of TennisTT after being impressed by the new state of the art National Racquet Centre (NRC). His report to ITF president David Haggerty led to Santilli’s visit.
The Italian who has the responsibility in the ITF for reviewing, leading and implementing the ITF world development programmes in six regions around the world to ensure an effective and substantial impact on the growth of tennis where it is most needed, said in a report in December that T&T being a hub for the sport in the region is a very realistic one that is supported by the Ministry of Sports.
“The strategic, geographical location of the country within the Caribbean and the direct daily flights to and from the T&T makes it an easy destination to travel to,” Santilli explained.
“TennisTT is now one step closer to achieving its objectives, as we are developing a master plan, in conjunction with the ITF for the development of tennis in T&T. This development road map will encompass our five pillars of development, inclusive of players, coaches and officials, parents, clubs and facilities. We are expected to have the final draft endorsed by the ITF by April 2018.
This will then be submitted to Ministry of Sports by May 4, 2018, for execution,” Steele said.