...back in 2002,
at first Liverpool International Tennis Tournament,
Stephen Gerard and Marat Safin
Twenty years from the first Liverpool International Tennis Tournament in 2002 and just before this year event we sat down with organiser Anders Borg to talk about the beginnings, some fond memories, big names and the future.
20 years ago - do you still remember how it all started and what gave you the idea? Everyone was thinking you’re mad for doing it? Do they still think you’re mad? Do you look back and think “This was one crazy idea”?
We wanted to bring tennis out to the people and take it away from the little bit of a snobbish environment around The Queen Club. Were looking for public parks around in England to accomplish this mission. When I was introduced to Calderstones Park in Liverpool I could not think of a better place to organise the International.
20 years on - what’s the best lesson you’ve learnt over the time? The best feeling about what you do and tournament? What makes you happiest despite all obstacles you’ve met along the way?
We have over the years faced many challenges such as the financial crisis, the ash cloud , lack of Council backing and difficulties finding sponsorships but we have overcome them all and there is nothing as satisfying as welcoming the general public and the corporate at the gates to what we think is a real theatre of dreams.
In the last 20 years - what’s the most memorable moment you can think of?
We have had some great world No.1 gracing our center such as Marat Safin , Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniacki but I think the highlight so far was when John McEnroe entered a packed stadium back in 2010, it was a rock star entrance.
Green credentials [environmental impact] are important to you. Talk to me about that and how this will be highlighted at this year’s event?
We are doing as much as we possibly can to help the environment, after all it's all taking place on a massive green space which we are really proud of… but we have not gone as far as to ban meat yet. [he laughs]
You now organise 5 tournaments in Liverpool for under 18 and juniors. What does that mean to you personally?
Liverpool has become a hotspot for the International Tennis Tournament which we are really proud of. This means great advantages for the kids growing up with tennis aspirations in the region as local players are offered wildcards into the tournament to fight for the first international ranking points. Gaining international ranking points can help a player getting a student athlete scholarship in America and have their whole education paid for whilst playing tennis.
There are a number of talents who played in the past in Liverpool and now represent countries, play at Wimbledon, just to mention Emma Raducanu…
Out of talent you know, and players we will see this year, what are the names to watch for? Who do you predict the bright future for? Anyone from Liverpool?
There are a number of local talents that can become outstanding tennis players. The fact that in Liverpool we have a Wimbledon Mix double champion in Neal Skupski is just an amazing accomplishment which I do not thing he has been given enough credit for. ,This year Neal will also play in doubles and it would not surprise me one bit if he gains another Wimbledon title to his name,
Kids day During International is an outstanding idea where 500-700 school kids get to be introduced to tennis - but it’s just one event on one day. What else happens, what should happen, what would you like to keep happening in order to promote tennis and to keep the momentum?
We want to promote tennis to kids as the earlier they start playing tennis the more they will enjoy it. Tennis is a game for life and it's the game that keeps you alive the longest. In addition tennis helps fight mental health issues, obesity and the more time we can keep kids on the court the better it is.
Djokovic in Liverpool, 2005
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