Tennis hit by hard times

by Orin Davidson
Stabroek News
July 14, 2001

Tennis is experiencing hard times in Guyana.

Players are disgruntled over the lack of tournaments as the sport is grounding to a standstill this year.

The last recognised competition was staged almost one year ago and with the deteriorating conditions at the National Sports Commission's facility at Woolford Avenue, where the majority of players play, life is even more difficult for the tennis lover.

It is a far cry from the times when the sport was a vibrant discipline and the prestigious Brandon and Phillips Cup Caribbean championships were staged in 1976 at the very NSC facility then known as the Non Pariel Park club.

However, current president of the Guyana Lawn Tennis Association William Skeete, attributes the decline to the deteriorating economic position the country finds itself in.

He said sponsorship for tournaments is almost non existent and it is one reason why none have been staged this year.

The Pegasus competition regarded as the most popular, and staged annually in February-March has not come off because the hotel has not provided the sponsorship.

"We were promised sometime immediately after the elections, but the protests that followed and caused a further delay and when everything eventually settled down, the manager (Pegasus) said they could not afford it," Skeete explained.

"Right now it is a kind of negative atmosphere, businesses who made promises before the elections, now don't even want to see you," Skeete lamented.

In better times the GLTA organised as much as five tournaments per year, now it can hardly stage one, the president pointed out.

He stressed that even the life members of the GLTA are not willing to help. "They said from the beginning they will have nothing much to do with this administration and they have done exactly that," he said adding they are the ones who have been involved long in the sport, and are equipped to acquire sponsorship.

Two tournaments, one senior and one junior, are set to start this weekend, but not of the magnitude of past competitions because the scarce GLTA resources could only allow trophies as prizes. "We have decided to go ahead with these tournaments because there is nothing else we can do," Skeete said.

He added that, help from Government is also not encouraging and disclosed that the association has plans to refurbish the NSC facility and the courts at the National Park, but because the ruling body does not have titles to the properties, nothing can be done even if they acquire finances. "The minister (Gail Teixeira) said she is not in the habit of giving land and even so, there is a kind of negativity whenever anything is asked for from the ministry.

Skeete explained that they could acquire funding to construct a facility from the world ruling body- the International Tennis Federation, but the association has to find the land and a percentage of the money.

Reacting to complaints of the non-staging of the association's annual general meeting this year, Skeete said they are awaiting the completion of an audit from their auditors before it can be held, as required by the constitution. He said the 2000 elections were held at around this time so there is no big overlapping of time.

Skeete however, was happy to state that two nursery coaching programmes --the Schools Tennis Initiative and Performance Tennis Initiative are going well with high attendance in Georgetown.

The two tournaments planned are to be staged at the NSC, Pegasus and Castellani courts. The junior event was set to start yesterday and the senior one from today.

Skeete explained that all clubs were notified well in advance but admitted that adequate notice was not provided in the media.

"This is something we will have to look at,"he said.