TENNIS AWARDS: Former Female Tennis Player Una Francis Remembered By SLTA

FORTY years ago (1980 – 2020) Una Francis made headlines after winning the prestigious awards of female Tennis Player and Sportswoman of the Year for the first time; she departed this life in June 2018 after a brief illness.

Una was kind, principled and respectful and gave a lot to the game of tennis. Her dedication to the sport and excellence on the court resulted in her being awarded the above mentioned titles.

Image: (L-R) Mary Francis during her acceptance speech; Una Francis (extreme right). (Photo: MF)
(L-R) Mary Francis during her acceptance speech; Una Francis (extreme right). (Photo: MF)

Una was the eighth athlete to have won the prestigious Sportswoman of the Year award during the period 1969-1980 the others being: Joyce Auguste (Netball/1969); Martha Biscette (Netball-1970/71); Lyndell Noon (Netball/Hockey/Golf/Volleyball-1972); Lydia St Omer (Netball -1973); Mary Ann Martial – Montoute (Netball -1974); Jane Du Boulay (Tennis – 1975) and Sybil Corion (Athletics -1976/77/78).

On Saturday evening at the Saint Lucia Tennis Association Inc. inaugural awards ceremony held at the National Tennis Centre (NTC) in Beausejour, her sister Mary Francis received the Posthumous award on her behalf; the award was in recognition of Una’s sterling contribution to the sport of tennis both on and off the court.

In accepting the award on behalf of her sister Una, Mary Francs said, “Una Francis lived and breathed tennis in the late 70’s and early 80’s and as resulted she was awarded Sportswoman of the Year 1980. Una had a wish and one of them was, she is remembered after she is gone and tonight this wish is being realized and I am sure wherever she is, she is proud and at least she is remembered”.

Francis added, “Another dream Una had, was to develop a programme relating to the history of the long tennis greats; at the time that she played it was the glory days of tennis in Saint Lucia. I am not a sports person but attended a few tournaments that she played”.

“In 2018 Una recognized some of the persons she played were forgotten like herself, so she had an idea where she wanted to do a programme which she entitled ‘The Lawn Tennis Ledgens of Saint Lucia’ which would use the media to expose Saint Lucians to the contribution those persons made to tennis in Saint Lucia, but unfortunately she met her demise that same year so she was not able to get the programme to materialize”.

“I am hoping the tennis enthusiasts/ administrators present can take on the idea that Una had; because it is important for us to remember those who made a significant contribution”.

According to Mary Francis, Una first broke into the tennis arena in 1978. At the time she had no formal coaching, no tennis academy and no sponsorship but what she had was a great love and passion for the sport. In the preceding years, she was an avid viewer and fan of the Saint Lucia Open Tennis Tournament, and practiced continually in the Gardens, affectionally known in the years gone by as George V Park, which was the then venue for tournaments.

“Una keenly anticipated the time when she would break into competitive tennis and play on the Saint Lucian National Side and at the time she accomplished this, she was the only woman of colour playing at the competitive level,” noted her sister.

Francis added, “She lived and breathed Lawn Tennis. She was naturally a talented player and the other women players always admired her tenacity which was obvious from her first appearance on Court at the La Toc Tennis Club under the aegis of Johnny Easter”.

Una was powerful, stylish and graceful on Centre Court and a player to be reckoned with. She played Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles but it was in the Singles arena that she shone.

“In the 1980’s there was a fierce, but friendly and healthy rivalry for the No.1 spot between herself, Jane Du Boulay, Simone Millar, Judy Milne Marshall, Suzy Barnard and Laura Easter with Jane, Simone and Una being the most dominant singles players at that time. There was a period of time when Una, with her effortless serve, lethal forehand and winning spirit, held the No. 1 singles spot firmly”.

“Una was a valuable member of the National Team and contributed significantly to Saint Lucia’s dominance of the prestigious Windward Islands Barnard Cup which ran from 1979 to 1984. She also had the opportunity to attend a three month coaching clinic in Connecticut, United States facilitated by her brother, Earl”.

Administration wise, she served as the Secretary of the Tennis Association for many years.

Anthony De Beauville is The VOICE Publishing Company’s multi-award winning sports journalist. He works closely with a number of sports federations including the Department of Youth Development and Sports, the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee and other organizations.

He covers and contributes articles highlighting the areas of international, regional, national, community based clubs and schools sporting activities. There is never an off day as he stays busy... Read full bio...

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