Posted 28 Jun 2023

The Rothesay International in Eastbourne is the biggest of the grass swing tournaments, running into the Wimbledon Championships, it gives the top ranked players in the World a final opportunity to peak for the Grand Slam. The Elena Baltacha Foundation team, always elects to take the older girls on this last event of the ‘Grass Trilogy’. The crowds are always very large, attracted by the World class tennis, and the opportunity to walk around the outside courts, getting up close and personal as the players warm up and compete.

As well as having chaperones, it’s always a positive to take parents along with us, it gives them a chance to experience these amazing events with their children, and to build great memories for themselves. Margaret accompanied us this year, all the players have known her for years, joining us as very young players, her daughter Natasha joined the Elena Baltacha Foundation Family when she was 6 years old, so you could say that Margaret is definitely part of our charitable family.

It's fantastic to see the fun that all the girls have, but to also see the parents enjoying themselves, brings an extra facet to the experience. Seeing Margaret with such a big smile on her face, literally the whole day, was wonderful. She is an incredible tennis parent, and everyone in our Foundation team have a lot of respect for her, and all she does for our charity.

The girls then went on their mammoth tour of the Eastbourne site, visiting all the ‘no go’ areas for the public and crowds. This is a real privilege, to see some of the best players in the world at work. Warming up in the gym, on the courts, relaxing in the players lounge, involved in interviews and the general excitement of a tournament of this size. The fact that a WTA camera man was following the girls all day, made it even more exciting for them. 

The girls were then treated to a visit to the WTA official offices, it was here that they were treated to presentations from some of the team members of the WTA, including Pam Whytcross, WTA Tournament supervisor, and former WTA player, who was actually present at the big historical event that happened at the London Gloucester Hotel event back on June the 21st, 1973 , led by the legend, Billie Jean-King, who fought for the rights of the female tennis players and equal pay. The information that the girls absorbed, was simply incredible, information all delivered in an hour sitting at one of the biggest tournaments in the World, in the beating heart of the managerial officer of the WTA, it is an experience the girls will never forget.

It was then time for the match, the camera man was absolutely committed to capturing every second of the girls visit, he followed them everywhere, even into the centre court stadium as they settled down in their seats to watch the top class tennis on display.

The girls were excited to watch Coco Gauff, its incredible to think that our girls had the privilege of meeting Coco during her breakthrough year in 2019, Natasha, who was on this trip, was one of the girls who got the opportunity to meet the very young Coco on the grass of Aorangi, where the players warm up for Wimbledon, Natasha is now 14, she was only 9 when she met Coco at Wimbledon. We all new she was a rising star, as did most of the world who was watching this outstanding young girl back in 2019, she has not disappointed, with a career high world ranking of 4, and banking a total of $7.3 million so far.

Without doubt, the best was left to last, as we were walking out of the stadium, we were informed that the WTA had arranged a player meeting, this was with Maddison Keys, a former winner of the Eastbourne tournament. All the players new who Maddison was, and her great achievements in tennis, it’s safe to say that they were all super excited to meet Maddison. Maddison has reached a career high World ranking of 7, she has achieved 7 WTA titles, and banked over $16 million in prize money. The WTA had arranged a very intimate meeting, ensuring that all the girls had Maddison’s full attention, it’s safe to say that they were not disappointed.

Maddison was articulate, attentive, and extremely informative. She provided the girls with information that came straight from a tennis champion, with years of experience growing up in tennis, and then competing on the WTA World Tour. Information that was very relevant to their lives, Maddison ensured that they could connect with all the stories and experiences that she was sharing with them. They related to these life experiences, winning, losing, life opportunities, aspirations, this was without doubt the highlight of the visit, little did we know that Maddison would go on to win the title for a second time, just a few days later. All the girls came away from this meeting floating on air, it was one of those life experiences, none of us will ever forget, player, parent, or coach.

By Nino Severino

by Wendy Henderson