The inaugural Nations Cup is taking place at the National Training Centre in Lautoka, Fiji on 31 May - 5 June.
The event, the first of its kind worldwide, gives players from 15 nations with Class C membership from Pacific Oceania who are not represented as individual nations in Davis Cup or Fed Cup the opportunity to compete in high-level competition in the same format as the sport’s biggest team competitions.
Organised by The Oceania Tennis Federation (OTF) with substantial financial assistance from the ITF, the Fiji National Sports Commission and sponsors, Punjas Group, the event has proved very popular in its first year with all 15 eligible nations taking part. It is hoped that the Nations Cup will become a staple fixture biennially, and a prestigious event for players in the region to train towards.
“This is a great achievement considering the geographical challenges experienced in this part of the world,” stated Tennis Fiji President Mr Richard Breen. “We are delighted to host this pilot event here in the Pacific Oceania Region in what we are sure will become an important regular feature of the regional calendar and around the world in the years to come.”
The event was opened by the Minister for Youth and Sport, Laisenia Tuitubou, with speeches from OTF President, Cyrille Mainguy, and Gopal Jedhav – the group marketing manager of Punjas Biscuits – followed by traditional Fijian performances. Breen, along with ITF Development Officer for Pacific Oceania, Gary Purcell, OTF Executives, Tennis Fiji executives, Fiji Government officials, corporate sponsors, National Association Presidents, and National Teams were also in attendance at the opening ceremony.
“The spirit of the players has been very positive from the start and it is great to see so many players and coaches from around the region come together to compete in both singles and doubles to represent their nations,” added ITF Development Officer for Pacific Oceania, Gary Purcell, who is based full-time in Fiji.
In addition to the high level of competition, there have been outings arranged by the sponsors, which have been supplemented with sport for development programmes, including local outreach visits by ITF and local Fijian DOs visiting national players from around the region.
Media coverage - including articles published daily in the Fiji Newspapers, Fiji TV, radio and social media - have helped to promote the event internationally, setting the foundation for the Nations Cup to become a global event in the future.
Tennis Fiji also eagerly await the return of the world’s fastest server to their nation. Sam Groth, who had links to Fiji as a junior player, is due to attend the finals and prize-giving at the Nations Cup on 5 June.
“The more competition opportunities we have in our region, the better chance we have to keep our players motivated to continue playing. We are building the base of Junior ITF events throughout the region and this new Nations Cup gives our players who have transitioned into the senior ranks another big tournament to be part of," said Breen. “With well-established Pacific Games and Pacific Mini Games every two years the Nations Cup gives players another chance to stay motivated and involved in the sport at a high level.”