World Tennis Day in Rwanda
The second annual World Tennis Day proved a huge success on Monday 3 March as 90 nations got fully behind the ITF’s bid to promote tennis and increase participation among players around the globe.
While centred around three high-profile showdown events in Hong Kong, London and New York, produced by StarGames and featuring current and former professionals, it was the work and support of many of the ITF’s National Associations that truly highlighted the worth and growing importance of the day.
With 90 nations in full support of World Tennis Day, 79 countries organised specific activities and events to raise the profile and increase participation in tennis in their respective areas – a significant increase on the 58 nations involved in the inaugural World Tennis Day in 2013.
Hong Kong hosted the first of the three high-profile events on the day, with Australians securing a double triumph as Sam Stosur overcame Li Na 64 63 before Lleyton Hewitt rounded out an entertaining 64 75 triumph over world No. 5 Tomas Berdych.
In London, 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash defeated old nemesis Ivan Lendl 86, before Andre Agassi bettered Pete Sampras 63 76(1) in a renewal of their intriguing rivalry. The event, hosted at Earls Court Two, also saw wheelchair world No. 3 Gordon Reid and world No. 12 Marc McCarroll play out a 10 point match tie-break in front of 5,000 spectators.
In New York, Madison Square Garden played host to a doubles encounter between Bob and Mike Bryan and John and Patrick McEnroe, with the Bryans winning an extended set 83, before world No. 2 Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray 63 76(2) in the showcase singles match.
The showdown came the day after Murray’s mother and Great Britain’s Fed Cup captain Judy had played her part in setting the GUINNESS WORLD RECORD® for the “Largest Tennis Lesson” in celebration of World Tennis Day. The historic occasion took place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in Flushing Meadows, with 406 children from local youth organisations in the New York area involved.
Fellow Grand Slam nation Australia was also particularly active throughout the course of World Tennis Day, with Tennis Australia encouraging all their affiliated clubs and centres to organise open days and activities. On 3 March, Melbourne Park was opened to the public with participants invited to hit free of charge on its famous blue courts just weeks after playing host to the world’s best players for the Australian Open.
The British LTA were heavily involved on social media throughout World Tennis Day, while their day’s activities kicked off with an Educational Festival of tennis at London’s National Tennis Centre. In the afternoon a Parliamentary Stakeholder Reception took place at The Speaker’s Apartment hosted by the British Parliamentary speaker John Bercow and in the presence of HRH Duchess of Gloucester and ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti.
As well as providing opportunities for children and adults to play tennis in line with the ITF’s Tennis10s and TennisExpress programmes, many of the ITF’s National Associations came up with inventive ways to promote the sport and encourage people to pick up a racquet.
In Iran, Tennis10s demonstrations took place in 10 major cities across the country, including a demonstration at the Milad Tower (the sixth highest tower in the world), in Tehran. One of the more remarkable images from World Tennis Day was taken underwater, where two scuba divers posed with a racket, a net and ball (and a passing exotic fish).
In New Zealand, the first country to celebrate World Tennis Day in 2014, demonstrations were held at several iconic Auckland spots including the city’s Sky Tower and Harbour Bridge. The Americas Cup Yacht Team also played tennis over a mini-net on their yacht.
There was plenty of activity in spite of extreme weather in some regions, with the Swiss Tennis Federation organising a ‘snow’ Beach Tennis demonstration in the spectacular mountain setting on Wengen, while those at the Manitoba provincial tennis association in Canada took to a tennis court in freezing temperatures and played in two feet of snow.
In Kenya, 100 school children and 11 wheelchair athletes from Kenya, Morocco and Nigeria joined together to play Tennis10s on the smaller Red courts, introducing many of the children to tennis for the first time.
There were numerous examples of further school-based activity in the likes of Argentina, which arranged Tennis10s activities for 300 children on the Avenida 9 de Julio (one of the largest roads in the world), Brazil, Cambodia, Ecuador, Guyana, Poland and Yemen, with many other nations heavily engaging in the spirit of the day.
“We were delighted with the success of the second annual World Tennis Day,” said ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti. “We were especially happy to see even more nations involved this year and we look forward to working in partnership with StarGames to make the 2015 World Tennis Day an even bigger event.”