New Men’s, Ladies Champs To Be Crowned.
TWO new champions will be crowned when the 5th edition of the KIA Independence Tennis Classic serves off here on Saturday. That’s the word coming from the National Tennis Centre General Manager Buzz Erlinger – Ford during a press conference to launch the tournament.
He said; “Last year’s champion Vernon Lewis, unfortunately will not be defending his crown this year. He suffered an unfortunate injury. Vernon is well on the road to recovery, he being as wise as he is, knows that he has to make sure he is fully healed before he gets into any sort of competitive tennis.
‘Julia D’Auvergne the defending women’s 18 tennis champion, there is good news and bad news. She won’t be here to defend either. She like many others has enrolled into a US College / University tennis programme. So she’s up in the USA right now and that is really the pinnacle of achievement for many of our local sports people and tennis players”.
He noted that at present there were over 175 to 200 young St. Lucian children participating in tennis as a regular part of their school’s curriculum and on any given Saturday, there is a group of young children taking advantage of learning tennis as part of the grassroots programme. “Tennis is no longer a semi-relevant sport enjoyed by a small number of privileged people. It is now a broad based sport,” Erlinger-Ford said.
First Vice President of the SLTA Trevor Hunte said, the tournament had grown over the years and it was becoming much larger due to the fact of the success grassroots programme. “What I noticed last year was a lot of the young players coming out of these programmes are now eligible to play which is making the sport a little more accessible and available in their life style,” Hunte said.
Hunte encouraged parents and spectators to come and view the tournament. There is no charge. The young ones really need that support. It is all local players competing, but at the same time, it is really encouraging for them to get that moral support when they are on the court whether they win or lose,” he said.
Marketing manager at Northwest and KIA Motors Limited Larry Bain said, his company was thrilled to be the sponsor of this tournament for the fifth year running. It is just what the two representatives from the Tennis Association mentioned that keeps us coming back every year. It is the amount of commitment and the amount of work that goes into creating an environment for youth development through the game of tennis”, he said.
Bain added: “It is a big commitment, but we believe in the commitment and in the continued involvement with our community. Tennis is an extraordinary sport; it is not only an individual sport, but can be a team sport. It is such a character building exercise. We believe it is of the nature that fits in with Northwest Limited and KIA Motors”.