STGB Annual Report 2019
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2019 was another exciting year for Seniors Tennis GB (STGB), with significant steps continuing on all fronts and continued improvements in the relationship with the LTA. An STGB working group reviewed the sustainability of STGB activity and, following discussion, responsibility for the Inter-County Competition has been passed to The LTA with further assistance being given on the Inter-Club Competition.
The highlights for the year were the return of The British Seniors Grass Court Closed Championships to Wimbledon and the continued success of the national teams with Teresa Catlin winning both the world over 50 singles and doubles with her partner Siobhan Nicholson.
The STGB social media and marketing continues to develop and Andrew Bird is thanked for his significant contribution to this area of work.
Raising the profile for tennis as lifelong game for seniors/adults 35+
In 2019, STGB worked hard to raise the profile of Seniors Tennis and engage more players in our events and competitions. This has involved being very active on social media, email marketing, regularly publishing news and articles on the STGB section of the LTA website as well as utilising event-site promotional materials during tournaments and events. Throughout the year, there were over 25,000 pieces of interaction (likes, shares, comments) across STGB’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts and there is ongoing collaboration with the LTA to align social media strategies.
Working closely with the LTA Marketing Team, targeted email messages were sent to over 160,000 British Tennis members aged over 35+, raising awareness of competitive opportunities for all standards of player throughout the year. STGB also engages with the County LTAs, Clubs and Tournament Organisers to get involved in the Circuit Events (including the National Championships), National Seniors Inter-Club competitions and other events, promoting tennis as a lifelong enjoyable game. STGB proudly broadcasts the amazing achievements of our GB teams representing Great Britain at the World Tennis Championships, inspiring others to compete and showing age is no barrier to international success! STGB also works closely with the ITF Seniors and the ITF Seniors Tour.
In addition, 2019 saw Seniors Tennis receive significant publicity and raised awareness when our Men’s and Women’s Senior Players of the Year, Frances MacLennan and Sebastian Jackson, were included in the LTA annual ceremony during the Wimbledon Championships.
Several volunteers were invited to LTA hospitality events during 2019
and thanked for their contribution to tennis notably Andrew Bird, Jim Cressey, Valerie Willoughby and Ken Jones.
Seniors' Participation Tennis Programme
Now in its fifth year, the Seniors' Participation Tennis Programme supported over 84 venues with a grant to contribute towards development and implementation of a plan focusing on encouraging take-up of tennis by adults over the age of 35. The scheme proved to be extremely popular again with 211 applications received, compared with 102 in 2015.
The programme was viewed as successful by 89% of participating venues with one in three participants becoming members. Examples of initiatives included ‘Bring a Wimbledon Watcher’, ‘Tennis for the Terrified’ courses and subsidised group coaching. This scheme will be continuing in 2020.
2019 was another vibrant year for GB teams in the World Championships. In the Team events GB won medals with some very respectable performances across the age ranges with one Silver medal and four Bronze medals won. In the 2019 Individual events, GB were especially proud to acclaim one Singles World Champion and five Doubles World Champions alongside four Silver and ten Bronze medallists.
Competition and participation to gain a place on a GB team remains fierce with several of our National Championships being oversubscribed due to this being one of the main criteria for selection. The ever popular Four Nations in 2019 was held in Dublin with England being the overall winners.
National Competitions – Inter-County and Inter-Club
For the first time, in 2019 Men’s and Women’s 35s team results were included in the LTA County Cup Race with the plan for all other Senior age groups to follow suit during 2020.
The Inter-County competition continues to be a great success, with 492 team entries for 2020. The end of season finals, for 40s age groups upwards, was successfully held at David Lloyd Dudley with fourteen different counties represented. This Competition has now been passed to the LTA to run under the County Cup Banner, covering all the groups from 9 to over 75 (cradle to grave)
The entry for the Inter-Club competition remained constant and thanks are extended to all the individual event organizers for running their events. The finals for all 18 events were again held at Dudley and all were very competitive. The winners of the events from the previous year qualified for Europe with eight women’s teams and five men’s teams taking part in La Manga. Sadly, once again due to the late decision by Tennis Europe in announcing the dates, several teams although keen were unable to go at the last moment, and December,for the older age groups, did not prove too popular. For teams that did attend, Wimbledon W50 winning the Gold medal, 45 Club W70 and W65 the Silver and Florence M65 and Warwick Boat Club W70 the Bronze.
The GB Seniors Circuit
In 2019, the GB Seniors Circuit comprised nineteen ITF-graded tournaments with approval for a new event at Ipswich in 2020. A new online system caused some early problems but the Tournament Directors appeared to prefer the new method for both making application and filing fact sheets.
The performance of all the tournaments played from January to June was reviewed by ITF Seniors following which Welwyn and The Avenue, Havant, were invited to apply for upgrades to Grades 2 and 3 respectively. Both were successful. Four tournaments in the second half of the year were also invited to make applications, the outcome of which is awaited.
The British Open Seniors Grass Court Championships (formerly the South of England Championships) were played in hot, sunny weather at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne, at the end of August. The tournament was well supported, despite following immediately after the Closed event at Wimbledon, with more than 40 entries coming from overseas, a fifth of the total. Once again, they quickly adapted to grass courts and several went home with prizes and a promise to return.
The National Tournaments
The British Open Seniors Clay Court Championships were, once again, played at The West Hants Club, Bournemouth from 25 May to 1 June 2019. Weather was changeable, but the tournament was completed on schedule in dry, sunny conditions. A total of 395 players entered, totalling 475 entries, with 432 matches scheduled for the week.
The British Seniors Grass Court Closed Championships were played at Aorangi Park, AELTC from 18 to 25 August 2019. It was a real bonus to be able to return to AELTC for the first time since 2015 and the Championships were a great success. As advertised, draw sizes were set to allow for the Championships to be played on 14 courts and 373 players were accepted, which greatly exceeded the 292 players who entered and competed in the 2018 Championships. Fortunately, even with the rain earlier in the week, all matches were completed on the grass courts at Aorangi Park with scorching temperatures over Finals Weekend.
The British Open Seniors Indoor Tennis Championships returned to Tipton Sports Academy in the West Midlands for the third year and, once again, player feedback was positive. The Centre had installed LED lighting since last year's event and replaced some of the curtains surrounding the courts, both of which were a welcome improvement. The entry level at entry/withdrawal deadline was higher than last year, with 401 players accepted into the tournament, in comparison with 380 in 2019. The increased entry meant that 408 matches were played, which was also an increase on the 375 matches played last year. This was the absolute maximum that can be accommodated within the schedule and court capacity and so not all players who wished to enter were accepted.
2019 saw further progress with the joint STGB/LTA initiative to increase participation in the National Seniors Inter County Championships with the National Seniors County Organiser reporting that:
- Further local visits added – cumulative 36 counties reached.
- Updated Inter County participation tables plus “thank you” letter from STGB Council to all Senior County Organisers (SCOs) issued in July.
- Team entries 483 (compared with 470 in 2018)
- Assistance given directly to eight local counties including South Wales in sourcing and appointing new SCOs
- All SCOs informed of signing up opportunities for STGB monthly newsletter, seniors tennis participation grant scheme for all and the LTA National Volunteers Week video.
In summary, it’s been another very successful year with exceptional efforts from all the volunteer members of the Council who are looking forward to another exciting year in 2020.