The International Tennis Federation (ITF) today announced the return of international tennis to the London 2012 Olympic Park after the Tennis Foundation, was awarded the rights to stage the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in 2014-2016.
The NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters is the ITF's official year-end wheelchair tennis championship, with an elite field featuring the top eight men, eight women and four quad players in the wheelchair world rankings. First staged in 1994, it was held in Netherlands for 17 years, before moving to its current venue in Mechelen, Belgium in 2011.
Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, known as Eton Manor when it staged the London 2012 Paralympic Tennis Event, is currently undergoing major transformation work and will offer four indoor and six outdoor courts when it opens in Spring 2014 as part of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The Tennis Foundation, Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and the owners of the centre, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, are working together on a comprehensive tennis development plan that includes community outreach, schools and disability programmes and development camps in addition to various national and international events.
The Tennis Foundation has a long history of staging international wheelchair tennis events in Great Britain in partnership with the LTA. It is a three-time host of the World Team Cup, and has organised the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships in Nottingham since 1995.
"We are delighted that wheelchair tennis will become one of the first sports to build on the legacy of London 2012 by using facilities at the Olympic Park," said ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti. "The NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters is one of the most prestigious events on the circuit, and its staging in London will help us in our efforts to promote the sport. After the spectacular success of this year's Paralympic Tennis Event, British fans can look forward to the return of some outstanding athletes to London."
UK Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson said: "This is another exciting, world class event coming to the country on the back of London 2012. This is great news for wheelchair tennis and will help encourage people take up the sport."
Geoff Newton, Executive Director of the Tennis Foundation, said: "The Tennis Foundation has been delivering world class tennis events for disabled people for over 20 years, and hosting the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters will give us the opportunity to encourage more people to play and watch this fantastic sport."
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: "One of the most exciting legacies from the 2012 Games is that London now boasts new world-class sporting facilities. This event will play an important role in maximising opportunities to grow participation in the sport as we continue to build the legacy from the 2012 Games."
Simon Morton, Director of Major Events and International Relations at UK Sport, said: "We are delighted to have secured the 2014 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters. This is the second Paralympic event to join UK Sport's Gold Event Series – and the first to be staged at a London 2012 venue – building on the legacy our home Games."
Shaun Dawson, Chief Executive of Lee Valley Regional Authority, said: "We are thrilled to be hosting the world's premier disability tennis tournament, becoming the first London 2012 venue to secure a major international sport event that will take place in three consecutive years.
"As the only purpose built venue for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre was conceived from the very start as a legacy venue to raise the bar for participants, competitors and spectators – and these championships are a great way to use the inspirational power of sport to boost the numbers of people taking part in the future."
Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of the British Paralympic Association, said: "The venues were packed in London 2012, which shows that the British public has an appetite for world class international Paralympic sport. Therefore it is fantastic news that the first sporting event in the Olympic Park will be a Paralympic one, and I'm sure it will be a great success."
Dennis Hone, Chief Executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, said: "Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will be one of the most accessible destinations for sport in the country. Securing the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters comes at the same time as a successful Inclusive Sport Fund bid that will see over a million pounds invested in sport for disabled people in and around the Park. One direct benefit will be a new annual festival of disability sport starting in 2013."