The namesake of Northland's biggest tennis tournament is hoping her annual doubles competition this weekend will spark a tennis resurgence in the region.

Janet Agnew, 65, started the two-day Janet Agnew carnival doubles tennis tournament in 1987 at Whangārei's Thomas Neale Tennis Centre, after she suffered serious head injuries in a car crash in 1986 and was told she would never play tennis again.

Fortunately the doctor's initial prognosis proved pessimistic, and Agnew was soon back on the tennis court with the desire to create a doubles tournament all Northland tennis players could enjoy.

Agnew, who started the tournament after she suffered a terrible head injury in 1986, said she wanted to see the annual doubles competition return to its heyday. Photo / John Stone
Agnew, who started the tournament after she suffered a terrible head injury in 1986, said she wanted to see the annual doubles competition return to its heyday. Photo / John Stone

With help from Tennis Northland chairwoman Raewyn Heywood, the tournament is in its 34th year and featured a prize pool of over $9000 from over 40 sponsors.

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Over 60 players had confirmed their attendance as of Wednesday, with some travelling from as far as Queenstown to compete in doubles on Saturday and mixed doubles on Sunday.

Despite Agnew's enthusiasm for the sport, tennis numbers in Northland had dropped significantly in recent years. Support for the sport had been so low, last year's annual Northland senior and junior singles and doubles competitions were almost cancelled due to poor attendance.

Read more: Tennis Northland chairwoman's plea for more numbers

Agnew, who fondly remembered learning how to play the game by hitting a ball against her family's car shed door, said tennis had changed drastically in the past few decades.

"Back then, tennis was booming," she said.

"If your Mum and Dad or your brothers went to tennis, you followed on and it's like all sports, clubs were booming back when I was growing up."

Raewyn Heywood, also the Tennis Northland chairwoman, had worked hard in local schools in 2019 to boost tennis numbers in the region. Photo / John Stone
Raewyn Heywood, also the Tennis Northland chairwoman, had worked hard in local schools in 2019 to boost tennis numbers in the region. Photo / John Stone

The passionate tennis player said in the tournament's early days, games would continue past midnight which would encourage a great atmosphere around the Kamo venue.

"We'd have a band, half of the players would be partying upstairs and the other half would be playing, but now everything's dwindled away, but thankfully this tournament is still going."

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Agnew, who said she still struggled with bipolar disorder which stemmed from her accident 35 years ago, knew her priority was to see tennis endure.

"Keeping the sport alive, that's really what it's about."

To play both Saturday and Sunday costs $60. To play in the doubles on Saturday including dinner in the evening costs $40 and to compete only in the mixed doubles on Sunday costs $30.


For more information visit Tennis Northland's website at www.sporty.co.nz/tennisnorthland or email tennisnorthland@xtra.co.nz.