Tennis, a sport which, at one time, held a space in the pride and joy column of Vincentian best, has over time lost its appeal.
This relegation in status, though gradual, has been painful all the same.
Several factors have contributed to the steady decline in the sport.
Loss of interest by parents after their children had moved on to higher learning; break down in inter-personal relationships among some key personnel and shifts in interests within the sport’s fraternity.
Too, through some undertakings and decisions, the financial position of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Tennis Association (SVGTA) got from bad to worse.
With the state of the sport, the few corporate entities which were friends of tennis, pulled the rug from under the sport’s feet, thus exacerbating the travails of the association.
A reduction in local tournaments, both at the junior and senior levels, fewer players getting scholarship to US colleges and universities; a struggle to upkeep the country’s premier tennis facility – the National Tennis Centre – and a general downturn in the sport, were just some of the consequences.
The many pitfalls tennis has endured over the past eight years or so, has left many fractures, such that there were times is was a struggle to get persons to serve on the national executive.
The latter, though, has not changed, however, it is evident that there is little zeal to serve, as a tinge of hopelessness beams.
But the sport should not be allowed to continue a merry decay, and leave a few who are willing to help.
Hence, granted the present state of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ tennis, it calls for persons to put up their hands, rescue and resuscitate the sport.
For the many, who have helped in the past and are willing to give of their time and expertise, the time is now to re-emerge.
And, the timing is opportune, as already there are some significant developments taking place, namely the handing over of maintenance of the National Tennis Centre, to the National Lotteries Authority.
Whilst some say that the move was always imminent, there are some items that must be protected.
One has to guard like gold, our annual hosting of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior Tournament. This tournament has been a staple for us for just over a decade now, hence should be fought to keep.
The ITF tournament is more than just a tennis tournament, as it has immense economic spin-offs and there are substantial evidences that is the case.
Many have heard of the full bookings that hotels in close proximity of the National Tennis Centre enjoy whenever this tournament is in full swing.
This, along with other benefits, such as taxis, and a general trickle-down effect from the over 100 players, coaches and parents, who fly in for the one-week tournament.
Tournaments are always welcome to our shores and it is great news that in October, there is the inaugural SVG Tennis Cup.
Again, this has the potential of granting us another tourism booster shot.
However, metaphorically, we should not leave the bone and go after the shadow.
Every effort should be made to have the two on our sporting calendar’s plate, as they provide much needed publicity for our country and the additives which come with the hosting of such tournaments.
The watch words therefore is to save the ITF tournament, as it has served us well.
In order for this to be achieved, there must be help coming forth from all fronts, as the current executive, under the headship of Brian Nash, cannot do it alone.
Again, calling out those who have served tennis in the past, you are needed to help rebuild the image of the sport.
No one expects us to get back the halcyon days of tennis, when it was everything; a host of players and coaches, tournaments galore, sponsors at the association’s beck and call; but there should be some semblance of respect for tennis, which is surely almost non- existence presently.