“Coming from South East London, I will always remember attending my first live tennis event at The O2”
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The Nitto ATP Finals are being held in London for the 12th and final time this week. To celebrate the event’s 12-year run in the UK we’ll be telling the stories of those it has inspired over the years.
For 13-year old Annis Frimpong from Lewisham, she remembers vividly when her love affair began with tennis began. Her father Isaac created a makeshift net on a basketball court at the age of four and instantly she was hooked.
It was a sport Annis could play with her family. Her dad is now a Level Two LTA Accredited Coach and she could also play with her twin brothers (two years older) as well as her younger sister.
“I still remember the feeling of connecting with the ball when I was younger. I liked hitting the ball hard and just letting go. Of course I liked competing as well but most of all having fun and enjoying it, playing with friends of with my family.”
The Frimpong family were able to visit the 2013 edition of the ATP Finals courtesy of some tickets they managed to get via the LTA at her club at the time Burgess Park Tennis Centre, where her dad also volunteered.
That first visit to a live tennis event, seeing the best players in person left an indelible mark on the six year old. “We watched Roger (Federer) play Nishikori and it was just amazing to be at this event you had seen on TV and to have near where you lived. It’s inspiring when you play club matches and then you go to a live event to see how fast the tennis is and how passionate the fans are in the real experience. It was something that I’ll never forget and encouraged me to try harder.”
After visiting the season-ending event at The O2, the family continued to play at parks locally when travel costs became prohibitive to attend Burgess Park.
Annis has always loved to watch Roger, Novak, Rafa and Halep. Her big role model is Serena Williams, especially as a mother how she has come so close to tying Margaret Court’s record and reaching four major finals since coming back. She also is inspired by Coco Gauff saying: “It gives me hope if a player near my age be able to compete against much higher ranked players, then if I continue to play the best I can then maybe I can achieve even more.”
Earlier this year, the family’s tennis situation became more complicated after the first lockdown. LTA Participation Development Manager, Tanya Woodward, was alerted to Annis’ case and was determined to help out. Thanks to the kindness of local Tennis Club Catford Wanderers, they were able to extend her a scholarship which now enables her and the family to play as often as they can.
Annis is excited about the future: “Now I am on the Under 14 Kent County Squad, playing at a rating of 7.1. My goals for the future are to keep moving forward, having fun, enjoying my tennis and seeing where it takes me.”
Helping to create an ATP Finals legacy
Over the last three years tennis participation has been steadily growing during November, compared to other winter months. This is no doubt helped by the visibility given to tennis nationally through the ATP Finals and the best players in the world.
Since 2012 the LTA has provided more than £5m in capital grants and loans to nearly 50 London venues – 17 of those have been in the south east and east areas of London. The LTA also works with South East London Tennis, Tennis Lewisham and Catford Wanderers Tennis club to help deliver more affordable tennis opportunities.
The LTA’s SERVES Programme has also helped introduce tennis to a wider group of people – through holding sessions in housing associations, community centres, mosques and temples. More than 32,000 people have taken part in the programme, with more than 936 people trained to deliver sessions. A total of 75 SERVES organisations deliver SERVES programmes in London, where nearly 60% of participants come from ethnically diverse communities.