The annual Tennis Wales awards have recognised the ‘aces’ of tennis – the people and organisations that have contributed most to the sport during the past year.
The ceremony, which was hosted by TV presenter Andrea Byrne, took place on Saturday 27 January at the Marriot Hotel in Cardiff. The 14 award categories recognised the achievements of players, volunteers, coaches, education providers, clubs and centres from across Wales.
“These annual awards recognise so many exceptional people – on and off the court” said Tennis Wales chief executive Peter Drew.
“This year it was great to start the event with She Rallies Ambassadors Carys Howard-Rees and Penny Mickelsen delivering an interactive presentation on the programme that aims to empower and expand the number of women and girls coaching and playing tennis across the U.K.
“2017 was another fantastic year for Welsh tennis. Schools tennis participation and club membership have both continued to increase steadily, and according to the 2017 Sport Wales Active Adult Survey tennis is now one of the most popular sports in Wales that people want to take up.
“On the back of several years of great work building grassroots tennis participation for people with disabilities, 2017 has seen a number of the best young wheelchair tennis players in Britain burst onto the scene from Wales, and we’ve had multiple British wheelchair tennis titles to our Welsh players. 2017 also saw wheelchair tennis introduced as part of the Wales National Championships for the first time, and we look forward to that event really expanding at the National Championships over the coming years.
“It’s been an amazing year for Wales performance tennis as a whole. In the space of 12 months Wales has had 4 junior players selected to represent GB, and we had Welsh representation helping Team GB to win the 2017 European junior team championships. Wales has had players across the full age spectrum winning British titles and challenging for world titles in 2017, and we had Welsh juniors winning a swag of international junior titles.
“What a great year 2017 was, and the future of Welsh tennis really is looking very promising at the moment. It has certainly made for some very difficult choices for the judging panel this year!”
Young Volunteer (sponsored by Inspire2Coach) – Jonathon Dawes (Rhyl Tennis Club)
Jonathon has been involved in either running or supporting over 35 different events in 2017. One of the biggest highlights was in March where Jonathon organised a 12 hour tennis marathon to raise money for charity. He invited coaches and players from all over North Wales to hit with him throughout the day to keep it going and raised £1651.35 for Comic Relief.
Volunteer – Nigel Edwards (Pen-y-ffordd Tennis Club)
Since coming onto the Pen-y-ffordd club committee in 2012 Nigel has been instrumental in developing the club from 68 to over 200 members. He has developed websites and films for promoting the club and the coaching programme. Nigel also manages the membership and the social media accounts and is currently chairman of the club, he is also instrumental in the clubs annual Great British Tennis Weekend events.
Education – Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwg (Church Village, Pontypridd)
Only two years ago this school offered very limited tennis provision. In 2016 the school joined the Tennis Foundation’s School of Tennis Programme. During 2017, 540 out of 800 pupils played regular Tennis (twice a week) during the 4 month block of April to July, 80 children enrolled in the Inter School tennis Competition, and 20 children played in competitive tennis matches at least once a week for the first time during June and July. The school hired and paid two different coaches during the season of 2017 to coach the pupils both during lesson time and after school in order to improve the standard of tennis.
Disability Programme Award – Cardiff Metropolitan University
In 2017 they began the development of their disability programme, focusing on giving elite Wheelchair and Deaf players the opportunity to train in a performance environment as well as gaining and education and tennis relevant qualifications. Linking in with David Liddiard, the venue offers a high level of support to elite players using technology to train in a performance environment as well as gaining an education and tennis relevant qualifications.
Fran Smith, Wheelchair player and current UK School Games Singles and Doubles Gold Medallist has commented:
“This venue has allowed me to train every day and always be surrounded with people who can offer expertise and great friendship. It gives me the motivation to always keep going and keep my head held high.”
Community Venue – Barry Community Tennis Club
Starting off with a handful of enthusiastic people in 2016 this venue has attracted a wide range of people from the local community, from the ages of 4 to 74. Now, there is a thriving crowd of keen, enthusiastic tennis players, many of whom had never picked up a racket before. Membership fees are far more affordable than in traditional clubs to ensure all members of the community have an opportunity to join. The club use ClubSpark to manage memberships and to host a website to provide information. The club make frequent use of social media to spread the word. Portable flood lights have been purchased this in 2017 to enable continuity over the winter season. Now with over 80 active members the club has managed to field a Men’s team, Ladies team and Mixed team in the local winter leagues for the first time.
Official – Jonathan Williams (Cardiff)
Jonathan is a fantastic example of the pathway available to dedicated individuals who would like to pursue a career as a full-time official. At the age of only 34 he has already established himself as a Chair Umpire and Line Umpire on the professional tour; working at the Grand Slams, ATP Tour Finals, and high-profile exhibition events such as the Legend Events at the Royal Albert Hall for 2017. During the course of the year Jonathan has built a reputation as a professional, knowledgeable and well respected Chair Umpire, chairing high level professional events around the world and in the UK (150 matches this year).
Competition – ITF, Rhiwbina Tennis Club
This venue proudly staged the first ever Welsh ITF Seniors Open in 2016 and again in 2017. The latest tournament attracted 70 players from New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. Over 40 welsh players participated in the event with many gaining a world ranking for the first time. The tournament was awarded grade 4 status in 2017 meaning more world ranking points were up for grabs. The competition increased participation levels providing club players from across Wales the opportunity to compete in an international event on home soil for the very first time.
Coach of the Year – Fran Lewis (Swansea Tennis Centre)
Fran’s level of dedication has resulted in a high number of players coming through from mini red development to the academy programme and now through to Regional, Inter Regional and National Camp Programmes. One of Fran’s prodigies Mimi Xu has played for Great Britain at the Under 11 age group during the past year. Fran has also this year had two coach resources published by the International Tennis Federation and the European Federation of Sports Psychology. Fran has been tirelessly working on sponsorship projects for the past 12 months for the Academy children, her aim long term is to make performance tennis more accessible to players from all backgrounds.
Player of the Year – James Story (Cardiff)
2017 saw James win a Silver medal in the Commonwealth Youth Games boys singles events whilst still under 16. He also won bronze in the mixed doubles with partner Morgan Cross. James was selected for the Under 16’s GB Team for Winter Cup 2017 and helped the team to become European champions. In July, James won the Under 18 ITF event in Scotland and was runner up in the doubles. This year James has seen his ITF ranking move from 1000 into the top 500.
Club Team – Rhos on Sea LTC Men’s 1st team
In 2017 Rhos on Sea LTC became the North Wales Men's Division 1 Champions, being unbeaten in the event and claiming maximum points. They were also the North Wales Shield Champions and the North Wales Men’s team tennis champions for the 3rd year running. All of these accolades result in the club achieving the ‘treble’ by winning all of the competitions they had entered.
Team of the Year – Commonwealth Youth Games Tennis Team
The team consisted of two Under 16 players Morgan Cross and James Story. James Story secured Silver in the Boys singles competition and Morgan narrowly lost out to the no.2 seed in a final set tie-break in the Girls quarter finals. The pair competed together in the mixed doubles to secure a bronze medal win for Wales.
Club or Centre (sponsored by Chiltern Sports Contractors) – Mackintosh Lawn Tennis Club
Mackintosh increased their membership to 351 in 2017 and saw programme numbers rise to 285. The club also saw 3 out of 6 league teams promoted during the winter and 4 out of 4 teams promoted in the Summer. The club also fielded 14 Team tennis teams, ran an outreach programme at a local park and raised over £2000 for charity with a 24 hour tennis marathon.
Outstanding Achievement Award – Tony Costa (Rhos on Sea LTC)
Tony’s impact in the two consecutive years he has been playing tennis is considerable. He has demonstrated that it is possible for people who are elderly or overweight to take responsibility for themselves and to live a happier and healthier lifestyle by means of taking up a sport - even a high impact one such as tennis. In two years he has turned himself into a good club player with a great serve, a super forehand and a passion for tennis. He practices by himself in all weathers and is not only prepared to go out of his comfort zone and play against those who are far better than him but also to spend time on court hitting and coaching those that have recently taken up the sport and need their confidence building up in order to fully participate at club sessions.
A BBC Get Inspired video entitled ‘Tennis Saved My Life’, based on his involvement in tennis received 75,000 hits in the first week, this is the most the series has ever had and initiated responses on the Internet from as far away as the Cameroons. The feature articles in the LTA's Ace Magazine, which has been read by thousands of tennis players and coaches in the UK and abroad, and along with the BBC video will hopefully have inspired lots of people to either take up tennis or those in it to push themselves harder to promote the sport.
Special Recognition Award – John Billington (Montgomery Tennis Club)
John has been instrumental in the development of Montgomery Tennis Club over the last 19 years. During that time he has held an official role within the club, either as secretary, chairperson or indeed both. He has led fundraising for, and overseen, the resurfacing of the tennis courts and floodlighting. He has organised junior coaching as well as captaining men's teams in a non-playing capacity at times. Now 81 years old, John is a true inspiration to all at the tennis club. His motivation, enthusiasm and willingness to help out generally, is second to none.
To view photographs from the evening please click here.