“The ATP Finals made me realise how much I wanted a career in tennis”
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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 Esta MacInnes working as a ball girl at the ATP Finals in 2018 was a dream come true. Growing up in South East London, Esta could see the world-famous 02 arena from her home, and as she got older, and her love for tennis grew, the landmark gained more significance.
After being introduced to the sport at the age of 13 through a tennis session run at her school by Greenhouse Sports, Esta has never looked back and is now striving to make a career for herself in tennis following multiple visits to the ATP Finals.
“I started tennis in 2015 at school when I was 13,” she said. “I had never picked up a racket before, but I was keen to learn a new sport and really get on board with the amazing tennis program that Greenhouse Sports had to offer at my school.
“I was not confident, but I had a good group of friends who were also determined to get better and we all had so much fun. We trained every day before and after school and tennis quickly became something I was truly passionate about.
“In 2016 we were chosen to be part of the Ball Crew at the Wheelchair Tennis Masters. Before we knew it we were on court, live on the red button on the BBC. I loved every minute, really learning the game inside and out, and seeing such good tennis so close up.
“As part of the Greenhouse programme we were also given the chance to go and watch the ATP Finals every year, which is how I became familiar with the event. It was definitely a highlight of our year, the people, the tennis, the venue, the lights, the action, every minute was just so much fun.
“When my coach, Jamie, invited me to go to try out to be a part of the ball crew for the ATP Finals in 2018 I jumped at the opportunity. After being successful in the trials me and 30 others were taken to have a week’s intensive training to get us ready for the Finals two weeks before it started.
“I remember running onto court for the first time, the cheer from the crowd, being followed by the spotlight, the music and the incredible light show, wow. The atmosphere was truly sensational, up to 20,000 people all coming together, with a shared love for tennis, to watch the best players in the world battle it out to win.
“We were on court for about two hours a day right in the middle of the action, centre stage, metres away from the best tennis players in the world. It was a very inspiring week and I was so grateful for the opportunity.”
Now 18, Esta has trained to be a Level One LTA coach at Clapton Girls Academy and is aiming to give others the same level of quality coaching she had from a young age.
“The ATP Finals really made me realise how much I wanted a career in sport and especially tennis,” she said. “Since completing my Level One LTA Coaching Qualification I have been working for a local tennis organisation that delivers tennis to a wide range of people. I have really developed my skills as a coach, through leading sessions and hoping to inspire the next generation of young tennis players”.
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.