Published: 06:00, 09 February 2021
The Kent Lawn Tennis Association's annual awards ceremony was recently held online for the first time.
There were 108 nominations, despite a difficult year for tennis amid the coronavirus pandemic, with winners automatically put forward to the regional awards.
Awards panel chairman Mary Evans said: “These annual awards are a great way to highlight the work of clubs - and the people in them - right across the county.
“They promote tennis at a grassroots level, getting people of all ages involved in this fun and healthy sport.
“More than ever, the nominations in 2020 shone a spotlight on the wonderful innovation that occurred in many venues, welcoming lots of new players into the sport, whilst keeping everyone safe.”
Emma Raducanu was named Kent player of the year, following last year’s junior award.
She’s been rewarded for her rise to 333 in the WTA rankings, winning a title in India and two premier singles titles, as well being selected for Great Britain’s Federation Cup team.
Jack Pinnington Jones won the junior player of the year, having risen to No.35 in the ITF world rankings and won the Grade 1 under-18 tournament in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Team of the year went to the Kent ladies Winter County Cup team, who were crowned national champions for the fourth consecutive year.
The under-18 boys received the junior team of the year prize after winning Group 2 and promotion back to Group 1.
Kent club of the year (one to four courts) was won by St John’s Tennis Club in Tunbridge Wells.
They constructed two new grass courts, by refurbishing and reseeding the redundant bowling green, a project backed by a host of volunteers.
With a refurbished clubhouse, player membership has increased by 40 per cent and there was huge demand for coaching, while new initiatives including welcoming people back to tennis.
The education award went to Deal Parochial Primary School, who have formed a strong link with Deal Indoor Tennis Centre, integral to their year-round tennis programme.
With the centre closed for several months during lockdown, the school compensated by providing tennis videos through their website, including a link to the LTA’s home activities hub.
On the partial return of pupils, there were weekly tennis lessons, and when the school fully reopened, before the latest lockdown, bad-weather sessions were replaced by fun science lessons on tennis-related topics.
Kati-Ann Rust, of Bromley Tennis Centre and Bridge Tennis Club, won the young person award.
Rust joined Bromley on a voluntary basis to develop her skills and progress in coaching.
Her confidence has grown and her enthusiasm on court is infectious, setting a great example to aspiring coaches.
She is halfway through her Level 1 coaching course.
Best competition was the Jack Petchey 21st Birthday Celebration Series at Old Wilsonians LTC.
The club organised two events, aimed at children and young adults who had been denied their usual opportunities due to the pandemic.
Box leagues, for youngsters aged 11-18, were played over six weeks, and there was a one-day singles tournament for adults aged 18-25, including cash prizes.
Gravesham LTC’s Angie Suleau was named official of the year, getting back to work just a week after coming out of hospital following a serious illness.
Her dedication saw her run a tournament with the help of husband Michel and a junior assistant, for 19 children, and she continued with events for various age groups through January to May.
Suleau has also supported the LTA’s new competition management system for referees and officials.
She was recently awarded her long service certificate for 20 years as as a referee.
Kings Hill Community Tennis Club received the community and parks award.
Their two courts were resurfaced thanks to a community crowdfunding project, and the club also responded to the challenges imposed by Covid.
An on-court booking scheme was adapted to enable more players to participate, and junior coaching was restructured to allow for more social distancing.
Sundridge Park were named club of the year in the five-plus courts category. Their strategy for 2020 was to enhance the membership experience and extend reach into the community via pay and play.
The club were also boosted by the appointment of a full-time manager and secured planning permission for two padel courts, with LTA funding.
Sam Tyler, of The Parklangley Club, won the development coach prize.
A county training coach, Tyler’s passion for tennis was evident in both his group performance and individual lessons.
He’s constantly adapting his coaching and was also praised for his online efforts during lockdown.
Andrew Crickett was the lead volunteer for the construction of a new clubhouse at Oakwood Tennis Club.
The winner of the volunteer award, Crickett designed the building, sourced the materials, went through planning permission and project-managed the self-build over six months, using his spare time, evenings and weekends.
As a result, the club acquired a £200,000 building for £47,000.
He also helped turn the old clubhouse into a new office for the coaching team, and a shop for players.
Janet O’Sullivan, a long-standing member of Gravesham LTC, received the lifetime achievement award.
She joined the club in 1982, taking her place on the committee and four years later became secretary.
O’Sullivan, the current fixtures secretary, was heavily involved in setting up a junior coaching programme.
She also captained the ladies’ 1sts to success in the North Kent and Kent leagues, and was league secretary for the North Kent League for 10 years.