Argentina qualified from S America, Mexico from N America, Uzbekistan from Asia, Japan from Australasia, Italy from Europe and the host nation was to have been Australia.
At an early stage, Australia declined to stage the event owing to lack of sponsorship. ( The previous finals had been sponsored in 2006 by IBM consulting).
New Zealand volunteered to stage them and had put provisional sponsorship in place.
S Africa, who were to have staged a Challenge but owing to lack of sponsorship, couldn’t do so, appealed to the IC Council for permission to field a team in the finals . This was refused at first, until it was learned that they had come through and won the African Nations 16 and under event involving over 20 African countries, on much the same basis as all the other Challenges.
Potentially, we therefore had 7 teams in the final. As we did not want teams to travel halfway round the world and be idle for a day, it was decided to ask GB to send a team to make it up to 8, as they were runners-up in the European Challenge out of 8 teams (the remaining IC Challenges were of 3-4 teams)
On 3rd October 2007 an email was received from NZ announcing that they could not stage the event because three potential sponsors had pulled out.
After rapid discussions in the Council, it was decided that the event should go ahead because of the promises made to the participating players and that efforts should be made in NZ and in London to try to raise more finance.
Funds were raised from the Illiffe family via the Dan Maskell Trust, IC Members gave contributions, . Tennis Australia gave a small donation. Compass Group under the Eurest brand provided free boxed lunches and dinner for the whole contingent of players , coaches and officials each night .
Presentations were made in UK to certain multi-nationals to try to secure funds
Help with presentational content was freely given by Andrew Pisker and Nick Basing, who also provided some target contacts.
The result was that some funds were raised and some promised for the future, and the overall budget was reduced, although at this stage it is doubtful whether the whole cost of the event has been covered. Detailed accounts will follow.
Organisation and problems
Des Shaw and his magnificent IC of NZ committee took over the organisation of the event and arrangements proceeded a pace.
As the date for the event neared, the S Africans realised that their sponsor S African Airways, only flew as far as Sydney and that fares from Sydney to Auckland were more expensive than they anticipated, so were unable to send their team.
Emails were sent pointing out that we had invited an extra team because of their pleas to be included and that it was not right to pull out at this stage and leave us with 7 teams. They agreed and raised the funds necessary, then found they had great difficulty obtaining flights!
About this time Japan announced that they were not sending a team because all their best players were on tours elsewhere. Emails were exchanged in which it was pointed out that they were obligated to play, as winners of the Australasian Challenge. Other pertinent and cogent arguments were made, which resulted in a change of mind and the Japanese decided to send a team.
With three weeks to go, the team from Uzbekistan realised that there was no NZ embassy in their country and they would have to send their passports to Moscow for visas to be created (after a reminder that they needed visas two months before that)
The week before the event was due to take place , they announced that they had major difficulties with visas and after consultation with Peter McQuibban, it was decided to institute a plan of action which involved speaking to Ambassadors, under secretaries and PAs, the NZ immigration department and for Tatiana Lapteva, Sec of the Russian IC, to coordinate matters with the Uzbeks in their own language. Pressure was put on at many levels which was eventually successful.
Visas were furnished by a disgruntled Moscow NZ embassy and couriered into Uzbekistan overnight with just 36 hours to go before the team were due to catch their first of many planes on the journey to Auckland
They finally arrived in NZ with only three players, as one had been injured at the last minute. (they were loaned a NZ player to complete their team)
Meanwhile, with only days to go, emails were received from Gustavo Hererro to the effect that conditions at their Buenos Aries airport were too dangerous for the children to be risked. (168 flight cancellations had resulted in fist fights in the check-in hall and even airline staff had to leave their posts because of the dangerous situation)
This unfortunately meant that the Argentine team did not get to the finals and a substitute NZ No 2 team were rapidly recruited to make up the numbers.
The Argentine team have since been offered a fixture against the WJTI at Wimbledon and a day at the Championships.
Despite this list of obstacles, the finals were a great success!
The whole event started on Sunday the 13th Feb, with an excellent clinic for wheelchair and handicapped children, eagerly assisted by the teams taking part in the Finals. This has resulted in a permanent arrangement being set up between the IC of NZ and The Halberg Trust. (a thriving foundation set up by Murray Halberg, a very famous NZ athlete, who won a Gold Medal at the Rome Olympics, who has spent the last 40 years raising money and awareness of the way disabled children can be assisted through sport and recreation)
All teams competing and their coaches took part in a positive and friendly way, as well as several top NZ coaches and former players.
The first evening NZ ex-Davis Cupper Brain Woolf opened his house to the teams for a barbecue which started the social side of the event well.
The competition proper, started on the Monday with a full-scale Maori welcome party performing in national dress, culminating in a dramatic Haka in front of 50 VIPs and the 40 assembled players and coaches.
There were two round-robin groups of 4 and the emerging teams played the final on the Thursday - IC of S Africa versus the IC of NZ. Full results are appended.
Several times during the week, the mixed doubles “Champions’ tiebreak” was used to decide the winners of the day’s tie, which lead to some very exciting tennis.
If anything, the general standard of tennis was even higher than in the 2006 final.
Congratulations to the IC of New Zealand juniors who won the event again and were presented with the Trophy by Frank Sedgman. Frank had made the trip to Auckland despite his wife, Jean being ill. His presence was very much appreciated by all of us as well as by the juniors, who were in a state of shock when told he had managed to win 22 Grand Slam titles. Each player was then presented with a replica of the glass trophy.
The Captains were also given a beautiful, bound, photographic record of the week’s activities, produced by one of the NZ IC committee. A video will be available after editing at a later stage.
The Sportsmanship Award was won by Fernando Guillen of Mexico, who always managed a smile even if he was being beaten, gave credit to his opponent’s shots and was impeccably behaved during the week.
The whole event finished on the Thursday evening after the prize-giving dinner, with a Maori “Now is the hour” sung by the players as well as the performing Maori group.
Many new friendships were forged during the week as evidenced by some of the tears on departure.
For my part, it was immensely satisfying to see the culmination of the event take place in such style and I was delighted when the IC of New Zealand saw fit to make me an Honorary member of their club.
This final was the culmination of Challenges set up around the world on 6 continents by IC members and officials, whom I personally asked to help on a purely voluntary basis.
I would like to put on record my thanks to Gustavo Hererro (S American Challenge), Roberto Pulido( N American Challenge), Marco Gilardelli , Paul and Shali Hutchins( European Challenge), Anil Khana, Col Sharma, Daljit Wallia, Yogi Prassad (Asian Challenge), Gordon Forbes, Leon Friemond (S African Nations tournament), Athol Tills, Frank Sedgman, Cliff Sproule and Cedric Mason ( Australasian Challenge), as well as the support of my colleagues on the IC Council.
The Finals were a triumph of organisation for Des Shaw and his super NZ IC committee , together with their volunteers, who worked tirelessly for many months to put on the best event yet. Thanks are due to all of them for their efforts and they can be very proud of the result.
I am grateful also to the sponsors of the Finals:
NZ Funds, Auckland Tennis, Eurest, Lacoste, The Compass Group, NZ Tennis, Wilson, and The IC Council and to all the other organisations and people who sponsored or helped in any way to put the Challenges on in various parts of the IC world. I hope you feel it was worthwhile.