The Tennis Association of T&T (TennisTT) has shifted its focus from youth to senior, a strategic move it believes will position the country to be the regional hub for the sport in the Caribbean, and initiate sports tourism.
In a release yesterday, Jermille Danclar, general secretary at the association said the focus has been deliberately shifted to other aspects such as professional and senior tennis for the past two years.
Danclar said: "Senior tennis caters to players 35 years and over, the age-group which makes up the majority of the club’s demographics in T&T. Historically, only the National Open Championships and Tranquility Open have had seniors/veterans categories, however, over the past few years there has been a proliferation of new local senior tournaments including the St James Club Tournament, the St Augustine Club Tournament and the Chetwynd International tournament; the latter has become one of the more established local senior tournament in T&T."
With tennis association president Hayden Mitchell being the driving force behind sports tourism, his secretary Danclar explained that the country is a great destination for sports tourism, a sentiment that was also shared by Luca Santilli, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) executive director for development.
Danclar made it clear, however, that they have to do the groundwork to achieve this.
Last year, TennisTT hosted its first successful ITF Seniors tournament, which attracted players from Great Britain, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Barbados. Danclar said that tournament highlighted the potential for sports tourism upon which future tournaments can be built.
"It is hoped that the performance of our local senior players will serve as an inspiration for dormant players to start back training for the next ITF Seniors Tournament," said Danclar.
To date, there are 15 men and five women with ITF Seniors World Rankings, which is unprecedented.
Danclar pointed out three areas he believes sports tourism will be of tremendous benefit to the country, namely: Increasing competition for our local players, which creates an incentive for players to continue to play competitively among international players within their age group, while helping to retain players in the sport throughout their lifetime.
It also provides opportunities for players to earn ITF Seniors World Ranking: Bolster arrivals to T&T and diversification of economy, as many international senior players are retired and see tennis as a means to travel the world and experience new cultures using these ITF tournaments while playing the sport they love.
Danclar was appointed by the ITF Seniors Committee due to his influence in organising the first ITF Seniors Tour Event in 2019. The ITF Seniors Committee is responsible for deliberating on the award of ITF Seniors Tournament to countries around the world.
This year, TennisTT wanted to host two ITF senior tournaments as well as send teams to the ITF Senior World Team Championship for the first time, but this was ruled out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.