Island tennis’s great paper chase

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`We’ve never had so many entries from so many countries,’ he explained.

‘And although EC countries are relatively easy to deal with, the problem has been with countries behind the former Iron Curtain.

‘What I have to do is to send letters or faxes to players so that they can take them to the British Embassy to get a visa to play here.

‘The problem is that they don’t just need a visa for themselves, they also need a visa for their coach or parent.

‘So, for example, I’ve had to write to Angelina Gabueva and her coach, Alik Dzebisov, plus her doubles partner, Zara Tsallagova and Carlos Rojas, her coach from Russia.

‘All of the girls in the office have been helping me, but we’ve been working four days out of five, just on the paperwork.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining.

The LTA give us the money and tell us just to get on with it.

However, trying to get them all past Immigration has been a nightmare, even though the people who apply to play here are all bona fide, are known on the circuit and are desperate to gain points to push themselves up the world rankings so they don’t have to pre-qualify for the main events.

‘Three of the four women who last won here, for example, didn’t have to pre-qualify for events like the current Australian Open.

So they don’t come here just for the money.

‘In all we’ve something like 150 tennis players coming here, plus another 50 per cent who are coaches or parents; and this doesn’t include the officials we need to help run the event.

‘At one time Immigration asked for photographs of the players and their coaches, but that hasn’t always been possible.

My role, as director of the tournament, is to confirm that the players have applied to the International Tennis Federation to play here.

I’m confirming that they’ve entered.’ And Raymond’s paperwork is made no easier because, for many of the entries, this is their first appearance in Great Britain at the start of a new season.

So, he has to confirm who the players/coaches are, and that their reasons for entering the UK are of a legitimate, sporting nature.

After Jersey, many of them travel to Sunderland, for the next tennis satellite competition.

So, if they had gone to Sunderland first, not Jersey, his job would have been made so much easier.

‘To give an example, a form from the Uzbekistan Tennis Federation came in today about Gafur Ishmatov, who’s 19 and arriving on his own.

He needs a visa, so I’ve got to write to him and then he needs to take my letter to the Tashkent British Embassy.

After Jersey, he’s headed for Sunderland.

‘So far we’ve had entries, for the ladies’ tournament, from the Czech Republic, Holland, Poland, Croatia, France, Estonia, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Latvia, America, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Russia .



and I don’t know how they can afford to get here, never mind the paperwork! ‘Without my helpers in the office, the LTA, Tourism and ESC, we wouldn’t be able to run two tournaments like this a year.

‘And this year Tourism have been great; giving us their support and £3,000 while ESC provide such material things as seating.

The LTA put in £45,000 and tell us just to get on with it, while we also rely on sponsors Caversham, for both tournaments (the ladies’ international runs from Sunday, 30 January to 5 February, and the men’s from Saturday, 29 January to Saturday 4 February, both tournaments at Les Mielles).

‘But don’t get me wrong,’ says Raymond.

‘We enjoy it, and these are exciting times.

And, as Tourism have told me, where else would we get more than 230 people travelling to Jersey at the end of January? Although I dare say we’ll still have those who get off the plane at Heathrow, expecting they can jump in a taxi, or on a bus, to take them to Jersey.

‘But I’m not complaining.

It costs us around £60,000 to stage each competition but between the LTA, ourselves, Tourism, ESC and Caversham, we put on a tournament that is a product of superb, team-effort.

‘And the bonus is that as well as putting Island tennis on the map, it’s a great incentive for all of the junior Island players; many of whom act as ball girls and boys during the week the players are over here.’

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