Nino Severino: Being part of sporting history will live in our memories forever
PUBLISHED: 15:28 24 April 2019 | UPDATED: 15:28 24 April 2019
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In his latest column, Nino Severino shares a story of how hew and a group of Ipswich tennis players were part of sporting history this week.
This week I and some young Ipswich athletes had the privilege of being part of sporting history.
It all started with a personal invitation from our National Governing Body, the LTA, and Anne Keothavong, our Great Britain Federation Cup captain, for myself and a group of Elena Baltacha Foundation-supported players to attend the Federation Cup play-off clash against Kazakhstan at The Copper Bowl in London, with a place in World Group 2 awaiting the winner.
Fed Cup is very close to my heart because of my wife Elena, who was such a big part of the Great Britain Team for so many years, is one of a small group of British players who hold the most successful playing records in the event, players including Virginia Wade and Jo Durie.
I had the privilege of watching Elena at many Federation Cup tournaments under two coaches – the globally renowned tennis coach Nigel Sears who recently coached Ana Ivanovic, and after his departure, the one and only Judy Murray took his place.
Both were incredible Great Britain Fed Cup captains, and Elena enjoyed every minute, competing for both her country and her captains.
But now it is Anne Keothavong's turn to take control of our destiny on the world stage. Anne and Elena grew up together from very young girls, through the tennis international ranks, to finally stand shoulder to shoulder together as members of the Great Britain Fed Cup team.
Anne has so much respect for all that Elena achieved and she is a very important part of our Foundation, as official Ambassador, alongside Judy and Martina Navratilova, who are our patrons.
The invitation from Anne offered our Ipswich-based players the experience of a life-time – an opportunity to potentially be part of an historic tennis event, here at home in England.
It all started with a group of very excited girls who started their journey to The Copper Bowl stadium, in Stratford London from our base in Ipswich.
Once we all arrived, we enjoyed a fantastic group breakfast, and to see all the girls bonding even more tightly, through camaraderie, laughter, and tennis life experience was a joy for me – I know this is exactly what Elena would have wanted for her girls.
After our breakfast, we made our way to the arena to be officially greeted by a number of LTA representatives – all the girls were escorted past the very long cues of fans and were offered entry through the VIP gate.
Once inside, they were all treated to a special tour around the stadium, and had the chance to meet Jeremy Bates, our former British No.1 player, who has some incredible tennis achievements to his name, including a Grand Slam doubles title.
Jeremy took the time to have a very long chat with the girls, and use his experience as a player, and now a British coach to inspire and motivate all of them.
The LTA also honoured Elena, by asking me to be part of an on-court interview.
This was incredibly emotional, I felt Elena with me the whole time, she was on my mind as I was answering all the questions and it was an opportunity for British Tennis to celebrate Elena's tennis life, and all she has achieved through her foundation. I cannot thank them enough.
After, the interview, all the girls were escorted on the court to have an official photograph, for them to remember their fantastic day at The Copper Bowl.
After the photos there was one more experience for my grand-daughter Yazmina Severino-Green, who had the honour of kicking off the match between Great Britain and Kazakhstan by tossing the coin for the first game between the British No.1 Jo Konta and her counterpart Yulia Putintseva.
After this we all settled down to watch what was destined to be a history-making day for for GB tennis, who won the play-offs 3-1, and earned themselves a place in World Group 2, an opportunity to compete against the greatest teams in the world.
Tennis for all of us came home, and we enjoyed an event that will live in our memories forever.