The annual Tennis Wales awards have recognised the sport’s big hitters – the people and organisations that have contributed most to the sport during the past year.
The winners include players, volunteers, coaches, clubs and centres, as well as local authorities.
The ceremony at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff was hosted by TV presenter and tennis enthusiast, Arfon Haines Davies (Saturday February 20th). Guests included Simon Jones, Head of Performance Support at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), and Chris Jenkins, Chief Executive of Commonwealth Games Wales.
“The awards recognise our most talented and dedicated people – on and off the court, especially those who make it possible for thousands to enjoy tennis in Wales every week,” said Tennis Wales chief executive Peter Drew.
“It has been a very successful year for Welsh tennis – winning the Home Nations title in Scotland, and bringing home three medals from the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa.
“There were individual successes for some of our top young players, including Josh Milton from Cardiff and Evan Hoyt from Llanelli, and in disability tennis from Shain Lewis of Builth Wells and Debbie Brazier from Newport. The Wales wheelchair tennis team lost by one point in the national finals, and Wales picked up a bronze medal for Ben Jones at the British Schools Wheelchair Games.
“The 2015 Sport Wales School Sport Survey showed that we now have 5,000 more children at school playing tennis, and community tennis has developed in areas that had previously struggled to make tennis accessible and available to the public.
“At the end of 2015 we saw the opening of a brand new indoor community tennis centre in Cardiff which will now hopefully become a beacon for community tennis.”
Young Volunteer (sponsored by Inspire2Coach) – Luke Difranco (Newport)
Luke has committed over 500 volunteer hours over the last year to assist in the delivery of the Tennis Newport programme. Still only 16 years old, Luke has become a role model for the junior players at Newport Tennis Centre, and his mini green squad is now known as ‘Luke’s Legends’.
Volunteer – Alun Bowditch (Aberdare Tennis Club)
Alun has been secretary of Aberdare Tennis Club for 15 years and in that time has transformed the club through his dedication and commitment. An online booking system, taster days and special events and taster days are among the innovations he has introduced.
Personal Contribution Award – Carys Howard-Rees (Beacons Tennis Academy)
Carys obtained her coaching qualifications while still doing some primary school teaching, and has grown her business, Beacons Tennis Academy, to now include the clubs of Crickhowell and Raglan “Mis Hits”. As captain of the South Wales Over 35 Ladies’ County Team, Carys took them to victory in the Inter-County Championship at Eastbourne for the first time, and captained Wales Over 35 Ladies to a clean sweep victory in the Four Nations at Bolton.
Her organisation and running of the Abergavenny Tennis Club programme has been instrumental in an increase in membership and junior participation.
Education – Gower College Sports Department
Gower College has fully embedded tennis within the whole student community.
There have been festivals, competitions, development of a tennis team, and wide ranging activity with disabled learners. Students have organised inter campus tournaments, and many have completed leaders awards, creating a workforce to support tennis development work in the area.
Disability Programme Award – Newtown Tennis Club / Martin Ellacott
Martin is the disability and inclusion coach at Newtown Tennis Club. He works every week at Cedewain School, a large day special school for pupils who experience a wide range of educational, physical and sensory difficulties.
He also works with special needs students at Coleg Powys, and has developed a programme that integrates tennis into their dedicated sports afternoon. His ‘N-Able’ disability sports club in Newtown, includes tennis as a core part of the programme.
Community Venue – De La Beche Park (Sketty) / Ann Peregrine Davies
Ann is chair of the Friends of Del La Beche Park, which was formed to look into refurbishing the courts in Sketty. Due to Ann’s efforts, time and tenacity the committee gained £130,000 through grants and fundraising, and the courts were opened in June 2015. Swansea Tennis Centre provided free coaching on the opening day, and organised a coaching programme throughout the summer. The courts are available for local residents and schools to use free of charge.
Special Recognition Award – Wales team for Commonwealth Youth Games
The Wales team of Matt Story, Ricky Hernandez-Tong, Joely Lomas, and Rebekah O’Loughlin, was managed by Wales National Coach Ellinore Lightbody.
The girls doubles team of Joely and Rebekah won the gold medal, the boys doubles team of Matt and Ricky won silver, and Matt won bronze medal in the boys singles.
Coach of the Year – Chris Lewis (Cardiff Met XL Academy)
Chris coaches three of the four players who represented Wales at the Commonwealth Youth Games, coaches six players who have had notable national, European and international success during the year.
Player of the Year – Matthew Story (Cardiff)
Reaching the singles final of the Liverpool Grade 5 ITF tournament in Liverpool in November 2014, boosted Matthew’s International Tennis Federation (ITF) ranking and put him on the international scene. In August, he partnered Vincent Gillespie from Scotland to win the U18 National Doubles title in Nottingham, and he won two medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games.
Club Team – Cardiff LTC Men’s Doubles 1st Team
The team has won the Premier 1 Summer Doubles for four consecutive years. Three players represented the team in every one of the 10 matches of the doubles season, and one player completed a 300 mile round trip for just one match in an away tie.
Team of the Year – South Wales Ladies over-35s
Under the captaincy of Carys Howard-Rees the team won County Championships at Eastbourne in August 2015, coming from behind to win a championship tie-break against Middlesex.
Club or Centre – Penarth Windsor LTC
The club has enjoyed impressive growth in membership and in coaching sessions. The club now has six licensed/registered Level 3 and 4 coaches, community links with seven schools, including girls-only and disability tennis programmes and a parks outreach initiative at Penarth Recreation Ground.
In 2015 the club had 16 Aegon Team Tennis teams, five winning their divisions, and a number of junior and senior county cup players, and this year will install four state-of-the-art artificial clay courts.
Eight of the category winners will go through to the inaugural British Tennis Awards, to be presented in London in June.
Information on all aspects of tennis in Wales is available from Tennis Wales at 029 20 463335 or www.lta.org.uk/in-your-area/Wales/ and for regular updates follow Tennis Wales on Twitter @tenniswales