The Liverpool Junior International Tennis Tournament is continuing to provide opportunities for Merseyside’s future stars, with the sixth and final week of its decade edition last weekend.
Over the past six weeks over 400 players from 40 countries made the journey using more than 2000 tennis balls in Merseyside.
Norwegian Anders Borg had a dream of bringing a successful tennis tournament to Liverpool 22 years ago. Every June since the showcase event of top level pro players has taken place in Wavertree.
But Anders felt a junior event was needed and 10 years ago it officially started.
The tournament is something Anders is very proud of.
He said: “We organise the Liverpool International Tennis Tournament which is a warm-up event to Wimbledon and that started in 2002. We’ve had some amazing young tennis players play in this tournament.
“Ten years ago we started setting up junior events. We did that in order to give local kids the chance to play against top ranked players around the world and compete for international ranking points.
“Novak Djokovic was here in 2005, Caroline Wozniacki was here three in a row and went on to be world number one. Emma Raducanu won here as a 12-year-old.”
Anders explained how the tournament is all about giving local kids the chance to compete with the best to be the best.
The Norwegian said: “Every week around the world there’s these ranking tournaments but they are very expensive to run so for most kids it’s just impossible. So the fact we do it locally for these kids gives them a chance to play in these tournaments.
“The carrot these players have in front of them is that if the win a couple of matches they can get a scholarship in America and get their whole education paid for.
“That route is the one that Neal Skupski from Allerton, the number one ranked doubles player took. He took his scholarship at LSU (Louisiana State University) and went on to be number one in the world winning three Wimbledon titles, two in mixed doubles and one in doubles which is unbelievable.”
And it’s not just on the court the tournament is positively affecting the community.
Anders said: “We started off with one event and since then have gone onto hosting seven events a year which has made Liverpool a real hub for international junior tennis.
“This year we have three events in two weeks with players coming from more than 40 different countries, 600-700 are descending upon the city which is also great for the local economy as they use taxis and Uber for getting to hotels and restaurants.
“For us also there’s a big community aspect to it. We want as many kids as possible to play so we can stage the event and they can go on to do great things like Neal Skuspki. It’s there to fight off the three pillars obesity, crime and mental health. And to keep off the streets.”
A partnership has also been created with KPMG accounting firm.
Anders said: “During the summer events we have a kids day only where we bring 500 kids to the Liverpool tennis centre and they are given an introduction to tennis.
“KPMG is a partner and they closed their offices for a day and brought 50 employees to Wavertree. Each kid is divided into a group with an employee who teaches them about letters and numbers whilst they do tennis exercises.”