Action needed to save tennis from certain death Orin Davidson's Eye on Sport
Stabroek News
March 31, 2002

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Unlike death, cricket or any of the more popular sports disciplines in Guyana, tennis has experienced a roller coaster existence in its long years of existence here.

In the past, some years have been blessed with surges of development activity while periods have seen rapid deterioration of standards on and off the court.

Over the last two years, tennis which once gave Guyana proud feelings of superiority in Caribbean circles from high class performances on the court, is experiencing its darkest period, arguably, its worst ever in history.

The times now are a far cry from the days when the Leroy Cort administration sparked a massive renaissance of the sport in the 1970's which exposed it to unlimited levels of grassroots participation, for the very first time.

Even before then, administrative feats of excellence were achieved when the Portuguese Club executive which once governed the sport, were capable enough to entice three times Wimbledon champion Fred Perry to visit Guyana and play at the Woolford Avenue facility, once called Non Pariel Park club and now known as the National Sports Commission (NSC) venue.

Through no fault of the players, tennis is presently living on its last swallows of breath, mainly through the efforts of a handful of coaches, who train young players and stage small tournaments for groups of teenagers and pre teenagers who could afford to pay.

Not to mention Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel which has staged its annual tournament for more than a decade and does not need the help of any association to do so.

Nevertheless, the Guyana Lawn Tennis Association (GLTA) is supposed to be the sport's governing body, but in the last 18 months it has ceased to exist. Elections have not been for two years and tennis has been allowed to drift into the doldrums with no attempt made to arrest the decline.

The last executive elected to office has seemingly lost interest and have seemingly thrown in the towel without anyone having the decency to administer the final rites by announcing resignations en-mass and open the floor to capable individuals, to take up the challenge to run the sport.

As a result players are left to fend for themselves without knowing where the next tournament or training programme will come from.

It's been several years since a senior team has represented Guyana at even a friendly competition among neighbouring countries. The demise of the regional Brandon and Phillips Cup championships has left a huge void in regional team competitions, but countries have taken up the challenge and qualified themselves to enter the Davis Cup tournament.

The lowest level of Davis Cup competition in the Caribbean has seen the Organisation of Caribbean States (OECS), Antigua, St Lucia among others competing for qualification to the next tier of Zone competitions.

As a founder nation of the Brandon and Phillips competitions and once double winners in 1976, Guyana has shamefully gone so far backward, countries previously incapably of competing in the regional competition then, are now known in the international circles through their affiliation in the Davis Cup, while Guyana has been forgotten because we have been incapable of organising ourselves to reach that level.

The unfortunate fact is that huge resources of talent abound among the active players, which only needs proper management through a pro active national ruling body, to match the best in the Caribbean and beyond.

Training programmes in the recent past have produced a number of promising players who have won scholarships to North America, but are forced to forget representing Guyana because of a non functioning GLTA, whose members' ambitions have gone no further than attaining personal gain at the expense of general development.

And like the benefits other local sports disciplines receive, help of a financial and technical nature is available from the world ruling body, the International Tennis Federation, but only for properly run national associations.

There is no question capable tennis administrators exist in Guyana, but for far too long the lesser calibre of officials have been allowed to run the sport, which has led to the current deplorable state of affairs.

The time has long come for serious develop minded people to take tennis out of the doldrums and restore it back to a successfully administered discipline.

All it requires is a mobilisation of all stakeholders involved --- players, administrators and followers to meet and identify the trusted ones who are capable of sacrificing some time, energy and knowledge to form a committee to lay the groundwork for election of a new executive.

It should not require the intervention of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to get the ball rolling as the stricken nature of the sport should galvanise tennis lovers into taking action now.

Not next month or next year, but now.