Crowds ‘disappointing’ at Paralympics stars tennis tournament

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ORGANISERS behind a wheelchair tennis tournament boasting a host of Paralympic stars today spoke of their disappointment after it attracted only “passing crowds”.

It was hoped the North East Wheelchair Tennis Tournament at the Sunderland Tennis Centre in Silksworth, would build on the success of the London 2012 Paralympics legacy, with medallists Andy Lapthorne, Jamie Burdekin and Jordanne Whiley battling it out on the courts.

The competition, upgraded from ITF 3 series to the highly competitive ITF 2 series this year, featured one of the highest quality fields ever assembled in Sunderland.

But tournament director John Schofield admitted organisers were left underwhelmed by the “passing crowds” which were attracted to the event earlier this month.

“It was a disappointment,” he said. “But we’ve always struggled to get big crowds, for whatever reason. It’s always well advertised around the city, but we’ve struggled to attract big numbers.” Last summer, spectators packed into the venues to cheer on the British competitors taking part in the London 2012 Paralympics.

Organisers sold 2.7million tickets for the Games amid huge media interest, with Channel 4 revealing that a peak audience of 6.7million tuned in to watch the event.

“There was always a danger that there would be a lull after the Paralympics,” said Mr Schofield. “We had a pretty strong line-up in Sunderland this year and there were some good games.

“The tournament is very strong and the standard of play is very, very high.

“The Paralympics were such a huge success. It would have been nice to build on that to increase interest in the sport. But in reality, it was always going to be difficult.

“We’ll continue to hold the event in Sunderland, there is no doubt about that, and we’ll continue to promote it the best we can.”

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho