New Zealand sports fans and curious coastal locals planning to spend the week before Christmas courtside in Pāpāmoa watching international tennis now have even more to look forward to.
The New Zealand Wheelchair Tennis National Championships is going to be played alongside the popular EVES Open event this year.
Both tournaments, which will be free for spectators, will be held on the sky-blue hard courts of Pāpāmoa Tennis Club, at the Venture Developments WBOP Tennis Centre in Gordon Spratt Reserve.
“We are delighted to partner with Tennis New Zealand and have our national champs run alongside one of New Zealand’s premier tennis tournaments,” says New Zealand Wheelchair Tennis president Nikki Howlett.
“We hope that this will increase the awareness of wheelchair tennis and encourage more people to take up the sport.”
The inaugural EVES Open event last year saw professional players from around the world take on New Zealand’s best over seven days in the lead up to Christmas, with large crowds every day of the week.
Spectators young and old sat on grass banks under pōhutukawa trees and were entertained for hours with hard-fought, fast-paced tennis and a festival atmosphere complete with food trucks and a beer garden.
The EVES Open – ITF World Tennis Tour: Tauranga is a professional event for men (M15) and women (W25) with official ATP and WTA world ranking points and a total prize pool of US$40,000.
“We’re excited to have the New Zealand Wheelchair Tennis National Championships alongside the EVES Open this year,” says Tennis New Zealand chief executive Julie Paterson.
“It makes perfect sense to have both of these events as part of a week-long celebration of tennis in Pāpāmoa.”
Julie says New Zealand Wheelchair Tennis is a valued partner “that does an amazing job promoting the sport”.
“We’re working with them to help grow participation in wheelchair tennis and over the longer term support athlete development, in the hopes of having more New Zealanders represent us at the Paralympics before too long.”
Tiffiney Perry represented New Zealand in tennis at the Paralympics and she will be competing in Pāpāmoa next month.
She has been playing wheelchair tennis since 1999 and has been to many regional, national and international tournaments including several world cups.
“Playing our national champs as part of a Tennis New Zealand tournament such as the EVES Open will definitely raise our profile and hopefully get more disabled players out there enjoying the game we all love,” says Tiffiney.
Also looking forward to the event is Suzanne Morrison from Parafed Bay of Plenty, a not-for-profit organisation that enables sport, recreation and play opportunities for physically disabled people in the region.
“What an awesome opportunity to have the New Zealand Wheelchair Tennis National Championships right here in our region,” says Suzanne.
“Parafed Bay of Plenty delivers a two-day Festival of Disability Sport at Mercury Baypark Arena every April, hosting wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball as part of their national tournaments. It would be fantastic to have wheelchair tennis as part of the programme in the future and see this incredible sport grow.
“Good luck to all the players and we hope that the community can get down to Gordon Spratt Reserve in Pāpāmoa and enjoy seeing some of the action.”
The EVES Open – ITF World Tennis Tour: Tauranga is on from December 17-23 at Venture Developments WBOP Tennis Centre, Gordon Spratt Reserve, Pāpāmoa. Entry is free for spectators.
The New Zealand Wheelchair Tennis National Championships will be played at the same venue on December 21 and 22, with afternoon matches on centre court.