Photo: Tennis FoundationLucy Shuker, Gordon Reid, David Phillipson, Marc McCarroll, Andy Lapthorne and Louise Hunt on the indoor tennis courts at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre
Great Britain’s top wheelchair tennis players returned to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Wednesday for the first time since the London 2012 Paralympic Games, to mark the one-year countdown to the 2014 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters.
The International Tennis Federation’s year-end singles championship will be held at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, formerly known as Eton Manor, on 24-30 November 2014 after the Tennis Foundation were awarded the rights to host the event from 2014 until 2016. An elite field will feature the top eight men, eight women and four quad players in the wheelchair world rankings.
The NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters forms part of UK Sport’s Gold Event Series, which aim to bring 70 world class championships to the UK over the next six years to help build a strong legacy from London 2012.
The stars of British wheelchair tennis, including London 2012 silver medallist Andy Lapthorne and bronze medallist Lucy Shuker, were the first to play on the recently completed indoor courts at the Centre which is still undergoing transformation works following the success of the 2012 Games. The Centre will open to the public in May 2014 and will combine community and elite use across four indoor and six outdoor courts.
Speaking at the Centre today, Paralympian and current ITF Doubles Masters champion Gordon Reid said: “It was fantastic to see the impressive new facilities at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre and the venue brought back a lot of happy memories from when I competed at the Games.
“I’m really happy that the local community are going to be able to play tennis here as well as elite players and hopefully we might find some stars for the future from here in east London.”
Geoff Newton, Executive Director of the Tennis Foundation added: “I think one of the real legacies from London 2012 has been the increase in the number of disabled people playing tennis across the country and to have a fantastic venue like this on the site of where it all happened is very exciting. The Centre will be a hub for the local community to come and have fun playing tennis with their friends and family, whatever their ability."
Shaun Dawson, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority Chief Executive said: “We’re delighted to welcome these top Paralympic athletes to Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre to experience our world class indoor tennis hall. We’re excited to be hosting the NEC Wheelchair Masters event for three consecutive years when the public will have the opportunity to see the world’s best in action once again and relive the excitement of London 2012. The Masters will be one of many major tournaments taking place at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre and we hope that events like these will continue to inspire a new generation to participate in sport.”
Dennis Hone, Chief Executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, said: “We are on track to deliver yet another world-class sporting venue for use by both elite players and the local community. As part of our inclusive sports project, Motivate East, we are creating thousands of opportunities for local disabled people to take up sports like wheelchair tennis and so we’re thrilled that the first players to hit a ball on the newly laid indoor courts include those who were so successful here at last summer’s London 2012 Paralympic Games. We hope to see them back at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park next year for the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters.”
The Tennis Foundation, Lawn Tennis Association and Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, who own and operate the venue, are working closely to implement a number of programmes at the Centre aimed at schools, community groups and disabled people.