Posted 29 Jun 2023

The big day had arrived, the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the WTA, an opportunity for 50 girls to all come together on the fabulous courts of the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, this event was a culmination of nearly three months planning. The Elena Baltacha Foundation Team were honoured, to receive an invite to join the WTA top table management team of this great event, combined with the Judy Murray Clinic, and the 5-day London based tennis road shows.

The attendees were split into 2 groups, 25 girls travelling from Ipswich, and 25 girls travelling in from across the London area. It was a very early start for the Ipswich girls, they were all asked to arrive at the departure point at 5.30am, ready to board the 53 seater touring coach.

The girls were very excited about this event, but also about the journey over to Roehampton, giving them the opportunity to spend time with their tennis friends, chatting, and having a great sing song. All the girls were chosen because they are well on their journey along the tennis pathway, ranging from county, regional, National, and International level. 

It was not only an opportunity for the girls to spend time with each other, but also parents. We had a very god mixture of mums and dads on the trip, all of them seem to be as excited as the girls! As we all know, the parents are very important members of the tennis journey for the girls, without them, it simply would not be possible to deliver the programme necessary for the girls to develop. Parents provide the girls with the family love that is needed, they are the transport department, and also the financial bankers, all a very big responsibility.

All the girls are excited about the customary stop on our journey, an opportunity to not only go to the toilet, but also well needed refreshments and food. An opportunity to stretch the legs, and have a break from the long journey on the coach. This is also where the parents support, with 25 girls to look after, a team of parents are very valuable, another set of eyes to ensure all the girls are looked after.

Three hours later we arrived at the National Tennis Centre, it was a very long trip, but all worthwhile. We were dropped off in front of the main NTC gates, all the mums and dads helped unload the coach, we had a lot of equipment to walk into the NTC, but with excellent teamwork, we managed to transport all the equipment in very easily. As we walked through the doors, we were greeted by a wonderful Come Play, WTA and Morgan Stanley sign, arranged by the LTA.

It was at this point that the Ipswich girls had the opportunity to meet all the London based girls. The 25 London girls travelled in from Bromley, Harrow, Greenwich, Southwark and Lewishman. I was so pleased to see that the schools who could attend, were there to support. This meant we had a significant number of 50 girls at the event to represent the 50 year anniversary of the WTA.

The girls would have a ‘Trilogy Experience’, a great opportunity for all the girls to work with Judy Murray on the blue courts of the NTC, a sports nutritional presentation from Dr Chris McManus from Essex University, and a Strength and Conditioning session with Justin Mills, also from Essex University. This was a wonderfully balanced experienced, all the girls enjoyed the variation, and the opportunity to work with top professionals, Judy, Chris and Justin.

We were very lucky to have the attendance of some incredible British Tennis Players. Jo Konta was full of smiles the whole time; it was very clear that many of the girls were star struck. Jo is now retired, but banked an outstanding career, achieving a World WTA ranking of No.4 . She won four singles titles on the WTA Tour, as well as 11 singles and four doubles titles on the ITF Women's Circuit. She reached the semifinals of the  Australian OpenWimbledon and the French Open. Jo achieved a steep rise in her WTA ranking from the spring of 2015 to late 2016, climbing from 150th to inside the world's top 10, the last time this was achieved by a British player was over 30 years prior. This period included her best  Grand Slam result up to that time, the semi-finals of the 2016 Australian Open,[9] a quarter-final appearance at the Rio Summer Olympics and her maiden WTA title in Stanford. In 2017, she won the Miami Open and reached the semi-final at Wimbledon. Jo had another successful season in 2019, reaching the semi-finals at the French Open and the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open. Jo retired on 1 December 2021.

Heather Watson also joined us, the girls connected with Heather’s energy immediately and had lots of questions to ask her. She is still very much a competing tennis player on the WTA Tour, her record speaks for itself, winning 5 WTA Tour titles and a World highest ranking of 39. 

Harriet Dart completed our trilogy of WTA Tennis stars, making the guest list an all British line up. Harriet had already delivered a ‘Meet the Player’ WTA event at Birmingham, she was amazing with the girls then, and today was no different, she was so positive, ensuring all the girls felt very special.

The WTA have been such great supporters of The Elena Baltacha foundation in the past, providing us with funding on a yearly basis. This year is a very special, as it’s the 50th anniversary of the WTA, a significant milestone in the history of women’s tennis. Morgan joined the WTA as a main sponsor, reinforcing their social responsibility programme of giving back. Both our foundation and Judy Murry’s foundation benefited from an incredible donation of $25,000, this donation will help both charities to deliver their objectives.

It goes without saying the 29th of June was a very special day for 50 young girls who attended this event. They were all motivated, inspired and affected by a group of very special women from tennis, and the volunteer group from Morgan Stanley. It will be a great memory that will last for a lifetime, and lead to many more girls playing tennis, and changing their lives through our great sport.

By Nino Severino

by Wendy Henderson