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Pratt named for ITF/Grand Slam Team

Bahamian Simone Pratt has been named for an International Tennis Federation (ITF)/Grand Slam® Junior Touring team which will compete in a series of junior tournaments during January 2012 in Costa Rica and South America. The team is part of the ITF Development Programme, which is financed by the ITF and the Grand Slam® Development Fund (GSDF).

The team will be coached by Guillermo Stevens, from Mexico, and the tournaments will include: the Copa del Cafe in San Jose, Costa Rica, from January 2-7; a tournament in Caracas, Venezuela, from January 9-14; a tournament in Barranquilla, Colombia, from January 16-21; and a tournament in Manta, Ecuador, from January 23-28.

During the period 1986-2010, over US$74 million has been invested by the ITF and the Grand Slam® nations in tennis development activities in 150 countries worldwide. In 2010, US$3.8 million was spent on the Development Programme with US$2.2 million being invested by the ITF and the balance of US$1.6 million contributed by the Grand Slam nations to the Grand Slam Development Fund partly from proceeds generated from the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour Finals. This year’s ATP World Tour Finals were held in London, England.

With the aim of raising the level of tennis worldwide and increasing the number of countries competing in mainstream international tennis, the ITF Development Programme includes a broad range of initiatives in less developed countries ranging from the grass roots to Grand Slams. Activities include ITF/Grand Slam touring teams, funding for junior and professional tournaments, training centers, coaches’ education, the supply of tennis equipment and the ITF Junior Tennis Initiative – a 14 and under player development programme, which encompasses Tennis 10s (School Tennis Initiative) and Performance Tennis Initiative programs.

Special emphasis has been placed on junior tennis where regional tournament circuits have been developed and teams of young players compete outside their own region. In 2010, 25 regional circuits were supported by the Development Programme providing much needed competition for the best players at 18, 14 and 12 and under age groups across the globe (Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Pacific Oceania).

Players who perform well at these regional circuits are invited to join an international touring team. The ITF/Grand Slam touring team program aims to facilitate the transition of talented players through regional and international competitions and onto the professional ranks. In 2010, there were 22 ITF/Grand Slam Touring Teams involving 165 players from 60 different countries. Former ITF/Grand Slam Touring Team members include: Gustavo Kuerten (Brazil), Nicolas Massu (Chile), Nicolas Lapentti (Ecuador), Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi (India), Angelique Widjaja (Indonesia), Eleni Daniilidou (Greece), Younes El Aynaoui (Morocco), Paradorn Srichaphan (Thailand), Cara Black (Zimbabwe), Jarkko Nieminen (Finland), Florin Mergea (Romania), Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus), Kateryna Bondarenko (Ukraine), Viktoria Azarenka (Belarus), Uladzimir Ignatik (Belarus) and Ricardas Berankis (Lithuania).

GSDF Travel grants are also awarded to talented players from developing nations for a specific program of tournaments. In 2010, 25 players from 17 countries benefited from grants to play in events outside their country. In addition prize-money grants are awarded to assist developing nations with the hosting of entry-level professional events for men and women, to help provide competitive opportunities throughout the world. In 2010, the GSDF provided grants for 26 weeks of men’s professional events and 16 weeks of ITF women’s circuit events.

Coaches’ education continues to be a priority for the Development Programme and with more and more ITF member nations keen to put in place their own coaches’ certification program, the ITF’s role is to help them become self-sufficient by helping to run courses, assessing coaches, selecting future course tutors and making sure the latest coaching information is easily accessible to them. To-date, more than 80 countries worldwide are using the ITF’s recommended Level 1 and Level 2 syllabi as part of their own program.

In 2010, 74 coaches’ courses (national and regional) took place. In addition, six regional coaches’ conferences were also held in 2010 in each continent in order to allow coaches to keep up-to-date on the latest tennis coaching and sport science findings. More than 1,100 coaches attended the conferences, which are held biennially. Speakers at the conferences included: Frank van Fraayenhoven (The Netherlands), Mike Barrell (Ukraine), Beni Linder (Switzerland), Pancho Alvariño (Spain), David Roditi (United States), Travis Atkinson (Australia), Jofre Porta (Spain), Eliot Telscher (United States), Machar Reid (Australia), Antoni Girod (France), Wayne Elderton (Canada), Vesa Ponnka (United States), Rémi Leurs (France), Mark Tennant (Great Britain), Bruce Elliott (Australia) and Rafael Mensua (Spain).

The ITF Equipment Distribution Programme provides tennis equipment and educational materials to approved national programs. During 2010 approximately 4,700 rackets, 170,000 balls as well as nets and strings were distributed to more than 100 countries worldwide.

The implementation of many of the tennis development initiatives relies on the work of the 10 ITF Development Officers who are ‘out in the field’ advising and assisting national associations on their activities. They each spend an average of 30 weeks on the road working with national associations, players and coaches in more than 100 countries to develop the game. Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the International Tennis Federation, commented: “We are delighted to be able to direct these funds specifically toward the development of competitive tennis and deeply appreciate that the Grand Slam nations are in a position to support our program. It is fitting that these great tournaments, which are showcases of our sport and provide stability for the professional game, are able to help by some tangible means to extend the competitive frontiers of tennis.”

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