Up to the 1980s, gay athletes were a hidden and marginalised community within the LGBTI community. However, a group of brave Sunday social players began to organise and coordinate gay tennis activities in Sydney. In 1982, an advertisement was placed in the Sydney Star Observer recruiting gay tennis players to join the group.
In 1984, the first Mardi Gras Festival took place and an inaugural tennis tournament was staged where approximately 130 players competed in a round robin doubles format at the White City courts.
The Gay & Lesbian Tennis Association (GLTA) tournament format was adopted in 1988 and the Mardi Gras tournament was born (today known as the Australasian Gay & Lesbian Open). This was a competitive knockout tournament held at Kingsford Tennis Centre during the Mardi Gras festival. This inaugural tournament featured 51 men and women across all grades in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
Tennis Sydney Inc was formed in the same year with Scott Ferguson as the first Tennis Sydney President. The aims of the initial committee were to promote the game of tennis within the gay and lesbian community of Sydney and to improve the general standard of the players involved.
In 1995, the first spring tournament, named after Tennis Sydney legend Peter Deacon was held. The Australian Gay & Lesbian Open (AGLO) and the Peter Deacon Tournament are currently the two major tournaments held by Tennis Sydney each year. Both are GLTA sanctioned events.
The extremely successful Virginia Slims Competition was started by Craig Hunt in 1995 so that there was an ongoing competition throughout the year. Since then, approximately 90 midweek competitions have been run.
Amazon Tennis commenced in 1995 and continues to be an active and welcoming group in the Sydney lesbian sporting community. With weekly competition and social tennis being held all year round, Amazon Tennis provides a fun and supportive environment for tennis loving lesbians of all grades and ages.
In 1996, Tennis Sydney entered its first Mardi Gras Parade and was 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. Tennis Sydney was the proud organiser of the tennis tournament for the games.
In May 2014, Amazon Tennis joined with Tennis Sydney to streamline administration and to offer more opportunities for local LGBTI players and for visiting players from interstate and overseas. Tennis Sydney is now the largest LGBTI tennis club in Australasia with over 200 Members participating in weekly competitions, tournaments and social play each year.
A few professionals have even participated in Tennis Sydney tournaments. At the 1994 Mardi Gras tournament, Chris O’Neil and Pam Whytcross competed in the womens doubles. Both were very good tour players with Chris having won the Aussie Open singles final in 1978, and Pam and Chris both winning a number of WTA doubles titles.
At the 2017 Tennis Sydney Christmas Party, Australian tennis professional Casey Dellacqua was a surprise guest and awards presenter. She also received the inaugural Inspiration Award from the club.
We have continued to evolve and have gone from strength to strength since our 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.
Many of us have played the tournament named after him, but who is Peter Deacon?
Peter Deacon was a giant in the world of sports promotion. Up until 1996, he was a household name in the world of squash, triathlon and thoroughbred racing. From the early-80s to the mid-90s, Peter conducted over 675 international, national, state and regional events.
He was also a racquet sport aficionado. A former world and Australian squash doubles champion, he partnered former world no.1s Jahangir Khan and Heather McKay. His greatest honour and joy was to partner Heather in her final open match before retirement, and the sporting history books tell the story of the pair having won the 1988 Bicentennial Australian Championships.
Not content with just squash, Peter moved over to tennis in the mid-1990s. He didn’t have the same tennis aspirations; he was content to get his game to A grade standard.
Peter’s interest in sports administration followed, and after a brief sojourn on the Tennis Sydney committee he was elected as the livelier Hon Secretary. Tennis Sydney Inc (as it was then known) began taken great strides, quadrupling its membership base, acquiring a healthy bank balance, and becoming instrumental in achieving major sponsorships to promote gay and lesbian tennis in a most positive manner.
Peter generated enthusiasm and believed nothing was impossible if the committee worked together for a common goal.
Peter didn’t think in small numbers. His energy and efforts were never satisfied until his goals were achieved. Tennis Sydney is indebted to Peter for transforming the club from a small social group into a thriving organisation for gay and lesbian tennis players which continues to grow today.