Nino Severino: The best Elena Baltacha Foundation Awards yet
In his latest column, Nino Severino reports on the highlight of his year - the Elena Baltacha Foundation Awards.
Last year, the awards fell on the worst day of weather in 2017, the weekend when we experienced a terrible snow storm that crippled the highway routes in and out of Ipswich, hinderiing the arrival of many of our guests.
This year could literally have not been any different – dry, crisp winter temperature, with the blessing of an amazing sunny day!
The awards are going from strength-to-strength, with the categories this year opening up to tennis players across the region, with the Suffolk county coach team selecting the nominees for each category.
This year was the most successful year ever for attendees, just short of 300, and we wanted to ensure that the arrival had a high level of impact!
With this in mind we planned for some top of the range Audi cars to be displayed in front of the red carpet, all arranged by one of our sponsors for the evening, Drift Bridge Group Corporate, in association with Audi UK.
As the awards grow, we are attracting more and more sponsors to the event, this year Barclays Bank joined the WTA, and also Sports Agents Black Diamond.
I’m very pleased to write that James Burridge, sports presenter from the BBC, had no weather stopping his journey in from London this year, and with such an incredible night ahead of us, it was only fitting that we had an incredibly talented host to seamlessly guide us through each phase of the awards.
The evening was full of stars from the sporting world, either attending personally or via video on the massive screens either side of the stage.
It was amazing that Martyn and Leoni Waghorn kept their promise to me when leaving Ipswich this year, and they travelled all the way down from Derby for the night.
Also from the footballing world we had Glen Collis, from sports agents Black Diamond, and Graham Dove, from Safeguard, who both support clients from the Premiership Football League.
Also attending, was Nigel Ling, my very good friend and goalkeeping coach from the Ipswich Town Football Academy team.
And from the world of tennis, Anne Keothavong, the Great Britain tennis captain also attended, with Louis Cayer, one of the world’s best tennis coaches, and a member of the world-beating GB Davis Cup coaching team.
And talking about globally-recognised coaches, Andy Murray’s Father-In-Law, Nigel Sears, was also in attendance, if only via video from Thailand. He is currently there with top 20 WTA tennis player, Anette Kontaveit, preparing for the first Grand Slam of the Year in Melbourne in January.
Nigel is an incredible foundation friend, and spent five hours driving in from Brighton to attend the awards last year, eventually turning back after the snow finally beat him.
As I mentioned above, the WTA were our main event sponsors, and as last year, they sent video messages from all eight of the world’s best tennis players, recorded at WTA World Finals in Singapore.
We also showed videos of our British number one, Jo Konta, and the one and only Serena Williams, who, with her sister Venus, has donated a very special vase that we award every year.
There are many trophies, shields and cups awarded every year, and it always gives me so much joy seeing players going up on stage to receive these awards. The marquee awards went to to the following players:-
- The Serena and Venus Vase: Verity Staines
- The Judy Murray Award: Saul Hindmarch
- The Elena Baltacha Honorary French Open Cup: Alana Bristow
- The Yonex Trophy: Seth Newman
- Staffordshire Silver Trophies: Justice Hall and Izzy Eaton - both have represented Great Britain on the junior tennis international stage.
The Elena Baltacha Foundation works tirelessly to offer children from all backgrounds the opportunity to join our wonderful sport of tennis, and without our fantastic board of trustees and our unbelievable backroom staff, this simply would not be possible.
I must just mention Aaron Garwood and Lindsay Farish-Carradice, who played such a major part in managing and organising our awards, and our devoted foundation trustee, Steve Harding, who through his company Touchwood UK, generously sponsored all the trophies.
It’s simply impossible to thank everyone, but as someone said to me, “you have some incredible people around you Nino” – and I do, people who are still devoted to my wife, and who help me continue to keep her legacy alive.