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The finals of the Junior Challenge event of the Council of International Clubs (ICs) sponsored by Airtel and DP World of India and the Compass Group have just finished in New Delhi with the team of the IC of Great Britain being victorious over Germany in a hotly contested tie. The finals are being held every two years with qualifying matches held in the previous year covering North America, South America, Europe and Asia.

The participating teams of two boys and two girls of 16 and under accompanied by an adult captain qualified from last year’s regional challenges held on each continent. They were Germany, USA, GB, New Zealand (holders) India and Brazil. At the last minute Brazil’s team couldn’t make the journey and India was invited to field a second team.

The event was brilliantly organised by the All Indian Tennis Association (AITA) and the IC of India. It was opened by Bhupender Singh Hooda, the Chief Minister of Haryana State, in attendance of some 500 local school children and 150 adopted children. The opening ceremony included a presentation of the teams and a demonstration of wheelchair tennis. A colourful tsunami dance was performed by children orphaned by the disaster in 2004 who are being trained to play tennis and dance. Other officials present during the tournament were Anil Khanna, Executive Vice-President of the AITA, Daljit Wallia, President of the IC of India, Barry Weatherill, Chairman of the IC Council and Julian Tatum of the IC Council responsible for the Junior Challenge event.

The finals are played on a round-robin basis. The champion team is the one with most wins. In case of a tie the winner is decided by a mixed doubles “champions’ tie break”. This is always an exciting way to define the winner rather than doing it by any mathematical percentage win/loss method.

The tournament format resulted in some very exciting ties. In the round-robin India beat Germany by narrowly winning in a mixed doubles tiebreak, despite the latter having had 4 match points. Nevertheless both ICs managed to qualify for the semi-finals where Germany this time edged out India again in a deciding mixed doubles. The final was attended by Meira Kumar, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament. Despite having lost to them earlier in the round-robin the IC of GB only just got the better of Germany in yet another champions’ tie break to claim the title. The British players were Alannah Griffin, Harriet Dart, Tom Hill and Tommy Bennett with Helen Reesby and Chris Lewis as captains.

The matches were played in the spirit of good sportsmanship which is the hallmark of IC events.

IC Junior Challenge – World Finals
Delhi - 18 December 2010

The IC Junior Worldwide Challenge proved to be an invaluable experience for all of the players in many ways.

Tommy, Tom, Harriet and Alannah were representing Great Britain for the first time and the efforts made by the organisers in respect of the opening and closing ceremonies made them feel very special.

The format of the event provided a rare opportunity for the boys and girls to team up together and the variety of different countries represented meant the players had to adapt to different game styles on a daily basis.

In addition to this, the unique format of the event led to a thrilling climax of mixed doubles matches which put the players into a high pressured environment. It is a credit to the British players that they were able to perform at their best when it mattered most.

Throughout the event the principles of fair play and camaraderie were instilled in the players who very much responded to it and played with a level of respect and fairness which is rarely seen.

The organisers from the IC of India could not have been more polite, helpful and respectful of all of the teams and we would like to thank them very much for all of their efforts.

In terms of the event moving forward, we felt that the players needed a little more down time in the evenings to rest and recover. This could be achieved by ensuring that evening meals are located near to or at the hotel and that the location of the hotel is close enough to the venue for transport times to be minimised.

This is the first time that Great Britain have won this event and we are very proud of what the players have achieved this week and how much they have improved. The manner in which they conducted themselves both on and off the court was especially pleasing and was representative of all that the IC stands for across the world.

Chris Lewis, Helen Reesby.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience this week in Delhi. I especially liked the concepts of sportsmanship and camaraderie which were promoted by the IC. The event has proved hugely beneficial for me and I feel that my game has developed due to challenging matches and on court coaching at change of ends. Furthermore, it has allowed me to make numerous friendships with people from other countries who are also aspiring to play on the professional circuit. Thank you.

Tommy Bennett.

This week was a great experience for me, playing matches everyday and being in a team environment. I liked having the on court coaches because sometimes when I lost my concentration they would re-focus me. My game has improved so much this week, playing five different players because all of them had different game styles and I had to adapt to each. I have made a lot of friendships and hope to keep in contact with them in the future. The mixed doubles was a fantastic way to finish a dramatic last day! Gracias par todo.

Tom Hill.

I thought that this week was a great experience and one that I will never forget. I found it really nice to be surrounded by players from all over the world but also getting to know them. I feel that I have got a lot better doubles by playing a doubles match everyday which I don’t normally do! I thought that the sportsmanship idea was excellent but also the deciding mixed doubles on the final day was a great way to end the tournament. Thank you so much for this great experience.

Alannah Griffin.

I would like to thank the IC for holding this event. I think that it has been an interesting experience with the surroundings and culture being very different. I found bonding with the other countries great as making new friends is always very nice. This experience has benefited me especially in doubles as a doubles match everyday was played. I also found that having a coach on court was helpful to re-focus and control emotions. What I enjoyed most was playing mixed doubles. I loved the tense and nervous feelings! I thoroughly enjoyed the week and I hope I will get this opportunity again in the future. Thank you.

Harriet Dart.