Recently announced as the official charity partner of this year’s Champions Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall, SportsAid has been helping aspiring British athletes in their journey to becoming heroes since its inception in 1976. The Foxley Docket has once again been enlisted by SportsAid to assist on this event. The success seen at the Gala Dinner in Kensington Palace with HRH The Duchess of Cambridge in attendance was a great testament to the vital funding SportsAid offer.
Rio 2016 has been the most successful away Games with athletes who previously received SportsAid support having huge success. 46 out of the 67 medals won by Team GB were contributed by SportsAid alumni as well as 70% of ParalympicsGB’s total haul. SportsAid is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016 and has big plans as the year draws to a close.
On the afternoon of the 2nd December, SportsAid will be hosting a special charity session with Champions Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall.
The Royal Albert Hall was the vision of architects Francis Fowke and Henry Young Darracott Scott, with the historic building first opening in 1871 in all its Italianate architecture glory. Originally entitled the Central Hall, work began on this iconic British landmark to fulfil the vision of Prince Albert, aspiring to promote appreciation and understanding of the Arts and Sciences. Work on the building was brought to a temporary halt in 1861 after the death of Prince Albert. Construction resumed in April 1867 under the vision of Henry Cole, who took inspiration from his visits to Roman Amphitheatres. Today, the venue holds up to 5,000 people, and plays host to the most prestigious events, frequented by infamous orchestras and musicians who perform on the historic stage.
2016’s event is shaping up to be a star studded afternoon, with John McEnroe, Pat Rafter and Tim Henman pencilled in to headline the 20th anniversary of the tournament.
McEnroe is an American former number 1 professional in the sport who dominated in both the singles and doubles categories, and has appeared as himself in a vast array of American films and television series including cult favourites ‘30 Rock’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, and Adam Sandler comedies ‘Mr Deeds’, ‘Anger Management’ and ‘Don’t Mess with the Zohan’, often parodying his own signature short temper and anger outbursts.
During his time as a professional tennis player, McEnroe won seven Grand Slam singles titles, three of which were at Wimbledon, the other four being achieved at the US Open. In doubles, McEnroe has held nine Grand Slam men’s titles, and a sole Grand Slam mixed doubles title, just a handful of merits achieved by an iconic figure in the tennis industry, who was understandably inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999.
Accompanying McEnroe at this prestigious event will be Australian former World Number 1 Pat Rafter. Loved both on and off the court, Rafter made history by becoming the only Australian in the Open to win consecutive US Open Titles in 1997 and 1998. Rafter is widely recognised by the tennis community for his signature ‘serve and volley’ technique, a trait which worked wonders at Wimbledon, a tournament in which Rafter has seen numerous successes, attaining dual finalist in 2000 and 2001 and a semi-finalist in 1999, having also made the semis at the Australian and French Open.
An Australian national treasure who’s respected for his sportsmanship, Rafter has been honoured with the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award and a quartet of ATP Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Awards. Earlier this year, in recognition of Rafter’s contributions to tennis, he was immortalised on a postage stamp as a recipient of the 2016 Australia Post Legends Award. No stranger to philanthropy in the public eye, in March, Rafter was invited to unveil plans for a $16.7 million world-class tennis centre at Marrara in Darwin, capital of Australia’s Northern Territories.
Last but by no means least is an icon with British tennis; Oxford native and Olympic silver medalist, Tim Henman. Henman made a name for himself in the sport by reaching the semi-finals of the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Championship, a feat that had not been achieved by a British male player since Roger Taylor’s rise to success in the 70’s. Although he never reached any Grand Slam finals, Henman’s ability took him to six semi-finals and 15 career ATP titles, 11 of which were in singles and 4 in doubles, which included a performance at the Paris Masters in 2003. As a part of the Great Britain Davis Cup team, Henman scored 40 victories and just 14 losses.
Nicknamed ‘Tiger Tim’, the crowds loved Henman because he was an everyman – he’d often speak of his love of “good food and excellent wine”, citing golf as another hobby enjoyed by the Oxfordshire native. Henman is regarded by many as “one of the best players not to win a Grand Slam.” This love resulted in a hill where people without tickets to the Tournament can sit and watch the events unfold on a huge television screen at the side of the Number 1 court being renamed “Henman Hill.”
McEnroe, Rafter and Henman will join the ranks of previous attendees, including Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg and Andy Roddick.
Hospitality tickets are still available to join SportsAid for the Champions Tennis charity session on 2nd December at the Royal Albert Hall. This special package includes early admission with a champagne reception at 11:30 before a fine dining lunch in the Champions Club at 12:30. There will be the opportunity to meet and greet Olympians and Paralympians, including many who have just returned from the Rio Games, before the tennis begins at 1:30 and draws to a close at 4:30.