TENNIS as a television spectacle is both engaging and entertaining with its smooth serves, graceful rallies, coupled with charismatic personalities and their on-court antics.
The reality is, it’s also a sport that is dogged by the stigma of being a preferred pasttime of the elite few of society — certainly a common and enduring perception from a Jamaican standpoint.
But those involved in the sport on the island these days seek to reassure that tennis has long weaned its ‘classist’ past and has since conquered the social divide.
“We have had a fight over the years that tennis is an elitist sport, and we can tell you that a lot of the stars in the past did not come from wealthy backgrounds as a lot of them came out of the Ocho Rios and Montego Bay areas,” said Tennis Jamaica first vicepresident Aswad Morgan at the launch of the Sagicor Bank-sponsored All Jamaica Junior Tennis Championship on Tuesday.
Branch manager at Sagicor Bank, Tamara Waul-Douglas, also sought to discredit the perception that tennis is a sport for Jamaica’s so-called upper-class.
“For tennis that’s a misconception as tennis is played by so many kids across Jamaica and is played in almost every school in Jamaica. When you go to the tournaments you will see that it is not just an uptown or downtown thing, it’s a Jamaican thing,” said the vivacious banker, who attended Tuesday’s function at Sagicor’s Jamaican headquarters in New Kingston.
David Isaacs, the tournament referee of the junior tennis championship set for the Eric Bell Tennis Centre from tomorrow through to Sunday, noted that the sport has its tentacles in downtown and rural Jamaica as well.
“It’s not only a rich man sport as is seen by many in the world today... you have people come from all around, and right now one of the best young players (in Jamaica) by the name of Mekalia Stephens, originates out of May Pen and I think she is one of the prodigies we have to look out for,” he said.
But local tennis also faces other stubborn challenges as it seeks to execute its costly programmes.
“It’s very difficult to attract sponsorship as sponsorship dollars is what helps to drive this development and there is little you can do without money these days, but despite that we have been very savvy in the use of the funds we have to run our programmes,” Morgan told the Jamaica Observer.
He said also that insufficient facilities are hampering the progress of the game, but noted that Tennis Jamaica has been creative as a counter move.
“We also continue to fight with (a lack of) access to tennis courts and part of our whole development programme is to get courts set up at different parts of the island so the kids can use them.
“We are working with hotels and other facilities that have courts because we believe the talent is there, the kids are coming out. (We are grateful) that we get a lot of support from the International Tennis Federation and the Olympic Solidarity Programme, but we still can have a bit more (help),” ended Morgan.