Up to the 1980’s gay athletes were a hidden and marginalized community within the greater marginalized and beleaguered GLBT community. The Gay Games were conceived in 1980 by Dr. Tom Waddell as a “vehicle of change” empowering gay athletes with the transforming benefits of sports competition.
A group of Sunday social players (including Ross Sinclair, Scott Ferguson, Brian Adams, Ian Craigie and Owen Gallagher) began to organise and coordinate gay tennis activities in Sydney. After the Gay Games I in San Francisco in 1982, an advertisement was placed in the Sydney Star Observer looking for other gay tennis players to join the group. John Rolfe took over the fiscal and social organising of the group and his business acumen gave the group a sound footing for growth.
In 1984 the 1st Mardi Gras Festival took place, and with Barry Webb (one of the foundation members of SCOG (Southern Cross Outdoor Group) coordinated the inaugural sports festival. As it was a social group it was decided that the best format for the sports festival was a round robin doubles tournament. So at White City courts over two nights approximately 130 players competed. It was a great success, socially & financially with Dawn Fraser presenting the trophies at the club. This format for the Mardi Gras tournament continued. Peter Deacon succeeded John Rolf and his experience and energy was fantastic for the growth of the organisation.
After the Gay Games III which was held in Vancouver in 1988, Scott Ferguson who competed was so enthused by the games that on arrival in Sydney wanted to form an organisation that could follow the GLTA format, which was a competitive knockout tournament style, singles, doubles, men, women, mixed, grades and ages. So Tennis Sydney Inc was formed and the Mardi Gras tournament as we know today had begun.
The aims of the initial Committee were to promote the game of tennis among the gay and lesbian population of Sydney and to improve the general standard of the players involved.
In 1989, a tennis tournament was organised at the Kingsford Tennis Centre as part of the Mardi Gras sporting Festival. This inaugural tournament attracted some 51 players. Since then an annual Mardi Gras Tournament has been held at various venues.
In 1995, the first Spring Tournament, named after Tennis Sydney legend Peter Deacon, was held. The Mardi Gras and the Peter Deacon Spring Tournaments are currently the two major tournaments held by Tennis Sydney each year.
Special thanks to the MCC church pastor Rob Clarke one of club’s early members for the Trans-Pacific Cup which was successful in bringing American players over for the Mardi Gras tournament & also for taking Aussie players over for the USGO (United States Gay Open) in San Francisco.
In 1995, the extremely successful Virginia Slims Competition was started by Craig Hunt so that there was an ongoing competition throughout the year. These mid-week seasonal competitions are the staple events of Tennis Sydney. Originally 8 players for the initial tour, it quickly doubles to 16 and so the Virginia Slims Thursday night competition was born.
At that stage the competitions were run independently of Tennis Sydney by Craig. However, it quickly became a popular event and soon after, Peter Deacon the Tournament Director, suggested to Craig that he come onto the committee and run it under the auspices of Tennis Sydney. And so it became a formal Tennis Sydney event which continued to grow in numbers with some competitions hosting more than 80 players.
Craig continued to run the night competition for 10 years before deciding to take a break.
In 1996 as an affiliate of the Australian Gay & Lesbian Tennis Association of Australia (GLTA), Tennis Sydney hosted the National Championships. To make the event as spectacular as possible and to attract as many entries as possible the committee decided to merge these titles with the annual Mardi Gras Championships.
Also in 1996 Tennis Sydney had its first ever entry into the Mardi Gras Parade and we were the first ever sporting body to “come out” promoting a healthy and competitive environment for the gay community.
In November 2002 the Gay Games VI was held in Sydney, the first Gay Games in the Southern Hemisphere which drew 11,000 participants for 31 sports and 11 cultural events from 80 countries, including Iraq, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates. Tennis Sydney organised and ran the tennis for the games.
The initial committee was formed with Scott Ferguson and Andrew Stevenson sharing the chair as joint Presidents.
The following is a list of players who have held the office of President since 1989.
1989-1990 Scott Ferguson/Andrew Stevenson
1990-1993 Andrew Stevenson
1993-1996 Rob Harris
1996-1998 Carl Copas
1998-2002 Edwin Christiansen
2002-2004 Carl Copas
2004-2006 Steve Bardy
2006-2009 Ben Alfred
2009-2015 Brendan Moore
Tennis Sydney has gone from strength to strength since its humble beginnings and many of the players who started the club and its events are still playing regularly today. We have a deep admiration for our club founders and are proud of all the committee members and volunteers throughout the years who have helped to build the club to what it is today