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Tennis players in Burnie, 1890 (AOT, PH30/1/1060)

Tennis, invented in England in 1874, was first played in Australia in Hobart in 1876, when J Walch and Sons imported equipment and several courts were laid. Club competitions were held from 1876, and the Tasmanian Lawn Tennis Association was formed in 1892. The first headquarters were two courts at the Tasmanian Cricket Association ground on the Domain (1878), and a new centre was built at Creek Road, New Town in 1909. Many courts were built all around the island and tennis was popular from the 1890s onwards.

Umpiring a tennis game in 1910, possibly at Beaconsfield (AOT, PH30/1/6004)

Tasmanian tennis was hit in 1956 when the state body's annual meeting was mobbed and a court case eventuated, but Mr Justice Burbury stated that he would not intervene in internecine warfare among sporting clubs. In 1957 all members signed an agreement, which gave the South 6 votes, the North 4 and the North-West 3, with the president residing in Hobart. In 1964 the Association moved its headquarters to the Domain Tennis Centre. Tennis flourished throughout the state: the South had 47 clubs, 122 courts and 3238 members; the North 13, 38 and 630; the North-West 20, 45 and 693. Tasmania had no further troubles until the 1990s when north-south rivalry again erupted, but by 2004 calm was restored with state headquarters once more at the Domain Tennis Centre.

The first Tasmanian Open was held in 1893, and for many years, top players competed, notably 1962, when the finalists were two Wimbledon champions, Neale Fraser and Rod Laver. Laver won 6–4, 6–2, 0–6, 0–6 and 6–2, an unbelievable score. After open tennis arrived in 1968, prize money soared and Tasmania could not keep pace. From 1993 the Women's International has been a wonderful success.

Helen Gourlay of Launceston had the most outstanding international record. In the 1970s, she was runner-up in the Australian and French Open, won the Wimbledon Ladies Doubles, and was ranked no 2 in Australia. Other successful players at Wimbledon and in David Cup teams were Simon Youl and Richard Fromberg.

Further reading: D Young, Sporting Island, Hobart, 2005.

Viv Holloway