December 3 - The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on the London 2012 Olympic Park will host the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters between 2014 and 2016, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced today.
The Tennis Foundation, the charity behind the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships held in Nottingham since 1995, was awarded the rights to stage the tournament, which is the ITF's official year-end wheelchair tennis championship featuring an elite field of the top eight men, eight women and four quad players in the world rankings.
The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, known as Eton Manor when it hosted the London 2012 Paralympic tennis, is currently undergoing a major transformation and will offer four indoor and six outdoor courts when it opens in spring 2014 as part of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
"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," Shaun Dawson, chief executive of Lee Valley Regional Authority, said.
"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."
ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti was equally pleased by the announcement.
"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," he said.
"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."
The Tennis Foundation is currently working with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and owners of the centre Lee Valley Regional Park Authority to create a tennis development plan that includes community outreach, schools and disability programmes and development camps, as well as national and international events, to enhance the London 2012 legacy still further.
Britain's Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson, welcomed the news, saying: "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."
His words were echoed by London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) chief executive Dennis Hone, who explained what the announcement means for disability sport as a whole.
"Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will be one of the most accessible destinations for sport in the country," he said.
"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."
First staged in 1994, the Wheelchair Tennis Masters were held in the Netherlands for 17 years, before moving to its current venue in Mechelen, Belgium in 2011.
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