10 Jul 2013

Roland Garros tennis event opens AGM

News Article

Photo: Corinne DubreuilCompetitors in the delegate and partners' tennis event on Court Philippe Chatrier

PARIS, FRANCE: The 2013 ITF AGM started in traditional fashion with a tennis event for delegates and partners on Tuesday.

Given the centenary AGM has returned to the same city where the ITF was founded, Paris, it only seemed right that the tennis event took place on the hallowed clay courts of Roland Garros.

And while Rafael Nadal can probably still sleep easy, safe in the knowledge that he is still the King of Clay, there were some silky skills on show.

The event was played on Courts 1-6, Phillipe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen, and the winners were suitably pleased with their on-court achievements.

President of the Haiti Tennis Federation Patrick Blanchet and Vice-President of the Philippine Tennis Association Fernando Villanueva triumphed on Philippe Chatrier.

Blanchet, whose National Association lost most of its tennis courts during the 2010 earthquake, said: "It's a dream come true to play on Chatrier. We're trying to rebuild and it's taking a long time. The ITF is helping Haiti and we're working on a project with the IOC to get four courts that will be under control of the Federation. We are working on another project with the ITF to build five more courts [clay and hard]."

Villanueva, his partner in victory who was attending his first AGM, added: "I can now say I have actually played here and won a tournament at Roland Garros! Nothing can beat that experience.

"Just using the locker room was great. Going from the locker room to centre court, you see all the names of the champions, the signatures of the champions, it's something I've only ever seen on TV.

"Now you're talking to the first Filipino winner at Roland Garros!"

For Group Lenglen runner-up Ingrid Lofdahl-Bentzer, the tennis event was a welcome diversion but she was keen to get down to business.

The Fed Cup Committee member and former player said: "We're here to celebrate 100 years of the ITF. The sun is shining, everyone is happy, it's a great bonding experience.

"I'm looking forward to vigorous discussions on the way forward, how we're going to pan out for the next 100 years.

"It's important to send a message to the constituents that a good job is being done and that we are catering for the oncoming generations."

Her words echoed the sentiments of both FFT President Jean Gachassin, who thanked delegates for coming from far and wide to celebrate in Paris, and ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti, who acknowledged the legacy of Roland Garros and its importance in Davis Cup history and its recognition of former FFT and ITF President Philippe Chatrier in his speech at the Club de Loges drinks reception.

The day was not just about on-court activities, however, with those not playing afforded the opportunity of taking a tour of the locker rooms, press conference rooms and museum.

There was much interest in seeing first-hand the lockers of the likes of Nadal and Serena Williams, who always use numbers 159 and 63 respectively.

The tour group was told that six-time French Open champion Steffi Graf always insisted on using locker number 19 and after her retirement, the Roland Garros management honoured the German by offering her the door to her locker as well as retiring that number as well. Locker number 19 was replaced by 18bis.

The day ended with drinks and canapes at Club de Loges, where the winners received their medals.

Group Chatrier

Winner: Patrick Blanchet (President of Haiti Tennis Federation) and Fernando Villanueva (Vice-President of Philippines Tennis Association)

Runner-up: David Patterson (Chairman of Tennis New Zealand) and Camilo Perez Lopez (President of COSAT)

Group Lenglen

Winner: Randy Futty (Director of Sport Court Tennis) and Torgun Smith (Board Member, Oceania Tennis Federation)

Runner-up: Ingrid Lofdahl-Bentzer (ex-player and Fed Cup Committee member) and Abdelaziz Laarraf (Vice-President of Moroccan Tennis Federation)