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Nairn Open Tennis Tournament is smash hit as it receives recognition from Tennis Scotland for its excellence as tournament of the year


By Donald Wilson

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Colin Hanbidge, Jane Russell, Lisbet Christensen and Paul MacDonald.
Colin Hanbidge, Jane Russell, Lisbet Christensen and Paul MacDonald.

Organisers of the 91st Nairn Open Tennis Tournament had plenty reason to celebrate as local members and visitors converged on the town for this year’s event.

For the tournament has been recognised by Tennis Scotland for its excellence as the tournament of the year for 2021.

Secretary Paul MacDonald said: “We are delighted to have this recognition not just for the tournament but also for Nairn as a tourist destination.

“The last time we won the award was in 1995 and last year we were also runners-up in the UK overall [section] so it’s a great plaudit for the organisation and the work put in by the committee.

“It’s important for the local economy and we had over 100 competitors this year, many who have travelled to stay in Nairn spending money in local hotels, shops, guest houses and Airbnbs.

“We know Nairn is a great place to live but it’s also a great holiday destination and we have had generations of families who keep coming back to Nairn for the tennis tournament because it has so much to offer.

“In the 1920s and 1930s, it attracted some of Scotland’s top players. But we encourage players of all abilities and that adds to its appeal with both open and handicap events for competitors to enter.

“The tournament was originally organised by the town council playing at the former Albert Street Courts and part of the agreement when the courts were relocated to Viewfield was the event would continue.

“It did and continues to be a popular competition for tennis players who enjoy the circuit during the summer months.”

Tennis champs prove to be ace

Jane Russell, from Dunfermline, won the ladies’ singles for the first time in 1981 under her maiden name of Jane Martin.

“I was coming here before I married and I regard Nairn as my ‘happy place’ and I’m going to have my ashes scattered on the beach when I die,” she said.

“It’s very much a family tournament and the Nairn tournament is part of my family and part of all my adult life. I still compete and love it.

“My daughter and granddaughter now compete here and I’ll keep coming for the rest of my life meeting my friends and spending time on the beach looking across to the Black Isle and the Souters of Cromarty.”

Lisbet Christensen, from Nairn, ran the tournament for 17 years.

“I’m regarded as the tennis granny and love meeting friends who have been coming here with their families for generations. We had the late Elena Baltacha [former British Number One] competing here when she was 12 and another sporting personality was the Welsh international football captain Alan Durban.

“It is a lovely tournament which still attracts good quality players.”

Referee at this year’s event was Colin Hanbidge (64) from the Giffnock club.

The three-times beaten Men’s Singles finalist and several times doubles and Mixed Doubles winner said: “I first competed here in 1973. It’s a tradition that former players are invited back to referee and I was delighted to accept the invitation last year and again this year.”

Colin competed regularly at Nairn until he went into full-time coaching in 1990.

“These tournaments were the mainstay of tennis in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s attracting a lot of top players.

“Today they are seen more as holiday tournaments but they still attract county standard players. It’s a Grade Four tournament and players come here to improve their rankings as much as to enjoy Nairn and all it has to offer. It’s a great tournament and the committee deserves this award.”


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