Life is meant to be lived, enjoyed and celebrated, especially during the later years! The Thailand World Seniors Championship ITF Grade A was just finished but the excitement still resonates on. This tournament drew over 200 players from 17 countries to Pattaya, Thailand was inspirational to getting seniors together to enjoy the sports they love. What an event it was and what a great privilege to be part of it.
It is not every day that one can get to see this level of quality tennis in Pattaya. It was a fantastic opportunity to experienced Tennis being lived through as a life sport. What made the whole event exceptional were the top of the line matches and the insatiable drive of top Tennis players from all over the world who came here with one goal in mind, to win. After experiencing the ITF excitement for a few days, it was easy to understand how the tournament has become one of the most anticipated sports events of the year!
Here are some of the amazing highlights of this incredible event:
Explosive matches and non-stop action
The Grade A tournament is considered the highest category in the Asia Pacific and is one of the most prestigious and coveted events on the ITF Seniors circuit held in Thailand.
The matches certainly did not disappoint! Players fought it out and gave it all they got to deliver a brilliant display of top-level Tennis. Electrifying. Heart-stopping. Riveting. The courts became a battleground! Players came to win. Spectators were at the edge of their seats. Adrenaline was high all over, and the players’ incredible fighting spirit was a joy to witness. Hope and dreams seem to ride on every serve; redemption or despair on every point. It was amazing to see some play through unsettling pain and injury. Lucky that there was a capable nurse on standby!
Tournament showstoppers were the epic matches played in the Finals. Fan-favourite Naoki Arimoto from Japan, outmatched Steven Eckstein of South Africa with his atomic serves to clinch his second victory in the Men’s Singles 40+ in Pattaya. Masahiro Sato from Japan upset last year’s winner Daniel Rajsky who was overcome by his volleying prowess in a tightly contested match and garnered his first meaningful win in the Men’s Singles 45+. Showing control and experience, both Naoki and Masahiro also prevailed in their Men’s Doubles 40+ final against Hiroyasu Sato and Shin Yoda of Japan. WTA player, Ding Eckstein of China dominated Hsin-Yun Wen of Taipei to win the Women’s Singles 35+. Longtime rivals, Jiri Cermak of the Czech Republic and Simon Rapoport of Israel, carried out a highly entertaining and explosive match which saw the former emerging as the victor in the Men’s Singles 60+.
Thailand was also well-represented in this tournament with Puttaruksa Jantamad and Arunya Wongkaew who fought their way to win the Women’s Doubles 35+ and Kobchai Tarasena who won the Men’s Singles 75+. Vitanart Vathanakul, the CEO of Royal Cliff Hotels Group who is also an accomplished Tennis player and a longtime enthusiast of the sport was one of the rising stars who showed a lot of heart in fighting it out to reach the tough semi-finals of the Men’s Singles 35+.
The fire has definitely not burned out for these incredible athletes! Grinding it out in closely fought matches, it was evident that each of them was driven to give all they can on and off the court. Regardless of age or background, those who can stay insanely self-motivated and remain at the top of their game are those that set the bar high and earn the respect of their peers. They set themselves apart and we call them the real fighters. Blessed with beautiful weather all throughout, the impressive showdowns created an action-packed event for all!
More than just Tennis, fantastic off-court offerings made the event more fun!
This year, the tournament was not just an event but an all-encompassing experience! The action extended off-court where players and spectators greatly enjoyed quality food and beverage on-site, post-match massages and cutting edge sports facilities. Players are saying that this is one of the best championships that they have played at. With exciting activities to do in their downtime, who can blame them?
A fabulous barbecue buffet party at the Fitz Club pool kicked things off in style. The welcome party was once again a huge hit with everyone! Players mingled, chatted and networked. After a day on the courts, they were able to relax and socialized over delicious food and drinks.
This year, the championship was sponsored by 3 leading companies: The Aspen Tree by Magnolia Quality Development Corporation Limited, Singha Corporation and Dunlop.
The Afternoon Tea hosted by The Aspen Tree was another crowd puller. Held at Rossi and Cigar Lounge, fabulous chefs at the Royal Cliff Hotels Group added an interesting Tennis twist to the delightful creations. Players were able to take a break and unwind between their matches with a charming selection of sweet and savoury bites, delicate pastries, delicious tartlets, bite-sized quiches and mini-sandwiches that brightened up an ordinary afternoon.
Tournament participants also enjoyed all the facilities at Fitz Club including swimming, sauna & steam rooms as well as massages from therapists on-site who provided soothing relief with their magic fingers. Many enjoyed a relaxing head, neck and shoulder massage or a revitalising foot massage. You can tell that the facilities were a hit with the players and that they had fun with the spectators and staff. Fitz Club staff went out of their way to make sure that everyone had a great time.
Outside the courts, players and spectators were in for a treat as food stalls were set up offering sandwiches, pastries, ice-cream, vegetarian food and halal food. Live cooking stations offered pasta and other delicious Thai favourites. Bananas, energy drinks, coconut juices and beers were also provided, which were a significant draw for the crowd.
About the Sponsor
The Aspen Tree is a Thailand-based specialist in services and living communities for older adults. Established by international property developer Magnolia Quality Development Corporation Limited (MQDC), it has a founding commitment to ‘lifetime care’ and ‘ageing in place’, giving older adults the security of continued support. Their booth at the event also added experiential value to the players. It featured a cool-looking gigantic Tennis Racket and a photo activity experience where participants can get fun giveaways. This was the first time that the company sponsored an event like the ITF championship.
“We believe that a love for sports transcends age. Royal Cliff and Fitz Club are delighted to create events for seniors to enjoy especially activities that promote a healthy lifestyle. We all know that sports and staying active are the key ingredients for a long, happy and healthy life. There is already an abundance of events targeted at the young generation and it is important to look after the senior citizens too. This championship is an excellent platform to develop a community belonging to the older generation who enjoy the sport they love. We are very fortunate to have leading organisations in Thailand that share the same values and passion in promoting a healthy lifestyle for this community. I would like to give special thanks to the following sponsors for being part of our ITF Grade A tournament: The Aspen Tree by Magnolia Quality Development Corporation Limited, Singha Corporation and Dunlop. Their support enables us to hold world-class competitions that are designed to keep seniors engaged in healthy activities, build a sports community and enhanced their well-being.”
Vitanart Vathanakul, CEO of Royal Cliff Hotels Group
“The Aspen Tree is a specialist in providing complete care to older adults. Therefore, we want older adults to have a healthy body and an active lifestyle by focusing on preventative health care instead of treatment. We sponsored this ITF event to help inspire older adults to be happy in every stage of their lives. The event is in line with the brand concept of The Aspen Tree which is to give older adults the best time of their lives or “The Most Beautiful Chapter in Life” as is the brand’s slogan.”
Hye June Park, President of The Aspen Tree by Magnolia Quality Development Corporation Limited
With a fabulous facility, amazing players, varied and delicious food and the perfect atmosphere you would want in a world-class event, the Thailand World Seniors Championship ITF has become something that top players would like to return to again and again!
Nothing beats the fantastic location and venue
For athletes, there is nothing better than to participate in an ITF Championship, but it’s without doubt, a game-changer when the event is held in a luxurious resort.
Chosen once again because of the property’s outstanding brand reputation, the Royal Cliff Hotels Group and its own luxury sports centre, Fitz Club – Racquets, Health and Fitness is one of the most iconic properties in Pattaya and Thailand.
Royal Cliff’s state of the art fitness centre, Fitz Club, has been frequented by top ATP players including Mikhail Youzhny, Denis Istomin and Nikolay Davydenko who has set up camp here frequently. The Tennis courts are of the same standard as the Australian Open, so top players choose Fitz Club to get used to the conditions to prepare for big grand slam tournaments. Renowned as the leading luxury sports centre in Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard region, it is fully equipped with state of the art facilities including a well-equipped gym, 7 floodlit tennis courts, 2 air-conditioned squash courts, swimming pool, table tennis and sauna & steam rooms.
It’s the little things that add up to a fantastic experience. Some players raved about the ease and convenience that the venue provides. The tennis courts are only an 8-minute walk from their hotel rooms or a very short drive if they take the hotel shuttle. Players enjoy access to well-appointed lockers, spacious changing areas, hot showers and toilets. Just steps away from fantastic fitness facilities for working out, players can de-stress and refocus the mind at the new Fitz swimming pool. The tournament setting also provides a seating area for spectators who come and cheer for their favourite players!
When asked what he thought of the tournament and Fitz Club, Dennis Sabourin from Canada who participated in the Men’s Singles 55+ said that it’s actually his favourite! “I really enjoy playing here. The facilities are wonderful. They have beautiful courts and a lovely place to watch the matches. There are always a lot of people. It is well organized, there is food around, and the atmosphere is perfect. I love this place.”
WTA Player, Ding Eckstein from China, also praised the court conditions and loved that there are plenty of Tennis courts available for warm-up and practice. Semi-finalist in the Men’s Singles 50+, Gary Sakuma from Hawaii, also mentioned the amazing staff. “Fitz Club runs a very good tournament. I’ve played in Indonesia, the Philippines, in Hawaii and the USA but what’s really good about Fitz Club is, you have top-notch facilities and good lighting. Staff are very friendly. The atmosphere is charming and the people are very nice. It’s wonderful that it’s sponsored by Singha and Royal Cliff and they work together to create top-notch tennis events for seniors. I hope to be here again next year!
Mr. Daniel Rajsky, the co-organizer of the Thailand World Seniors Championship ITF Grade A has this to say about the venue:
“Fitz Club is Royal Cliff’s cutting-edge luxury sports center which has been frequented by top ATP players and sports stars from around the world. It is located in a highly accessible location and has the facilities to hold a world-class even,t including seating areas for the spectators. We have hosted 2 successful ITF events in the past and we have received nothing but excellent feedback from all the participants. The team also has experience in organizing tournaments and is headed by a CEO, Mr. Vitanart Vathanakul, who is passionate about the sport. He plays tennis and loves tennis and this is one of the main reasons why we can organize this remarkable ITF event in the beautiful luxurious facilities of Royal Cliff in Pattaya, Thailand. “
Organized by Tennis Players who are passionate about the sport
Anyone knows how hard it is to set up a world-class sports event such as this one. The organisers of the 2019 Thailand World Seniors Championship Grade A are all passionate about Tennis and it shows!
Veteran ITF players, Daniel Rajsky and Jiri Cermak were on a lookout for a world-class facility in Pattaya to hold the ITF tournaments and they wanted to partner with someone who was also passionate about the sport. They found that in the athletic CEO of the Royal Cliff Hotels Group, Vitanart Vathanakul, who they have played regular matches with. They agreed to partner together to bring the ITF championships to the Fitz Club. It was amazing how a passion for the sport brought these 3 Tennis enthusiasts together and the Pattaya ITF tournament was born.
It is not easy to run a multi-billion dollar family business and conquer goals in the Tennis arena at the same time. That’s precisely what Vitanart Vathanakul, the multitalented CEO of the Royal Cliff Hotels Group is doing. He started playing Tennis at the age of 5, following in his father’s footsteps. In his earlier years, he was the captain of the 1st VI Tennis team at the Oratory School which was renowned as one of the best racquet sports schools in England. He continued to pursue the sport through college by being a member of the prestigious Cambridge University Lawn Tennis Club team. Organising the ITF tournament meant a lot to him as he was able to bring his passion to life and carry on the legacy of his mother who was also the first to organise the successful Veterans Championships in Pattaya. An all-around athlete, his love for the sport continued to grow as he grew older.
Asked why he loves the game so much, he said that Tennis simply showcases to the world what someone is truly made of. It tests your fortitude to the extreme, exposes your temperament, reveals character and compels a player to be self-reliant and disciplined in the court. It ultimately helps build essential skills that can be applied in business.
“With Tennis, you are solely responsible for the outcome. When you go out there to compete, the spotlight is shining on you. You learn to be adaptable. You have to solve problems on your own. Your mental, physical and emotional skills are tested. You learn to think on your feet to figure out your opponent. It’s a sport that makes you constantly improve, that’s why it’s very addictive.”
Never one to back down on a challenge, he fought his way through to reach the tough semi-finals of the championship. This was a memorable moment for him as he battled and triumph over experienced opponents and earned himself a world ranking to reach the top 250. He illustrated a perfect example of commitment to realise a dream. “Playing against these incredible competitors who gave all they can on and off the court and who worked so hard to remain in top form was such an inspiring experience and made me feel proud to have reached the semi-finals and represent Thailand.”
As someone who continuously develops himself, he believes in testing his skills against top-level opponents in tournaments in order to improve as a sportsman. For him, nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction you get when you win and know that all your hard work has paid off. To appreciate the competition, to overcome losses, to practice discipline, to steadily persevere, Tennis has taught him to be a better businessman as he daily lives out fundamental values that he has learned from his ultimate life sport and he wants to help draw more people into the game.
“We are proud to have successfully organised a tournament that brought the highest quality tennis to Thailand. This incredible event enabled us to create an electrifying battle arena for players from all over the world who share the same passion for the sport. It was remarkable and humbling to meet top-level athletes who continue to excel and inspire as they fought their hearts out in tightly fought matches. We are truly gratified to have been able to put Pattaya and Thailand on the map as a top Tennis and sports destination and remain committed to continuing to run ITF tournaments annually.”
This is the third time that Fitz Club has successfully organised the ITF Championship and each time, it just keeps getting better and better.
Players were in top form and fought their hearts out
In sports, getting older really doesn’t mean the end of the competition! There is absolutely no reason to stop doing something you love as the years pile up. The Thailand World Seniors Championship is an excellent testament to that. Fast, slick and conditioned, the players showed grit, strength and endurance that bypass their years. What keeps these amazing athletes so athletic and spirited at this later stage in life? What is it that makes them burn? What makes them get up every single day and do what they do? What keeps them in the competition?
Most declared that having a burning passion has enabled them to live healthier and live just a little bit longer. It could be having an enthusiasm for sports, for winning, for achieving goals or for self-improvement. Whatever it is, it’s what keeps them going. It compels them to work hard and gauge their capabilities in tournaments as well as live an active lifestyle to make all these possible.
Players mentioned that they possess a drive to improve. They don’t stop because they love to always better themselves. One player mentioned that experiencing many sought-after wins and feeling stronger with each tournament gets him through gruelling training. Many stay consistent because they keep setting new goals and having fun. Sometimes, it is merely tracking and seeing results. They love knowing that they can now wholly do something that they once thought would be impossible for them. They cherish every moment of accomplishment and just have a genuine love for the sport.
“My secret? I love tennis, this sport is my life. Staying competitive and passionate makes me feel young.”
Alain Moracchini (France)
Winner of Men’s Singles 55+
“I think the secret is to constantly play, running, exercising and moving all the time. I am quite addicted to sports, don’t need to be tennis but I like to move, so I think it’s the reason for good health.”
Luisa Gouveia (Portugal)
Winner of the Women’s Singles 50+
“Exercising and eating well. I play lots of tennis because I own a Tennis academy in Japan and I coach a lot.”
Naoki Arimoto (Japan)
Winner of Men’s Singles 40+
“We like sports. We like the feeling of having obstacles and facing challenges in sports which make us active. That’s why we would like to invite more Thai seniors to join tournaments like these to have a healthy lifestyle. We believe that we have a lot of good local players.”
Puttaruksa Jantamad and Somrit Phonwisut (Thailand)
Winners of Women’s Singles 35+
These inspiring athletes are not just about winning but on a never-ending path of constant self-improvement. Some of the oldest ones have proven that the golden years need not be intimidating or lifeless. It can still be colourful and vibrant, simply by continuing to be passionate about a sport you love. These guys have been playing Tennis for many many years, but they are still talking about how they can improve their forehand or backhand. They are real superstars!
Igniting the Competitive Spirit of the Senior Generation
These matches are as much about the journey as the destination. Beautiful memories of camaraderie and sportsmanship were created along the way. New friendships were established. Wins and losses became an inspiration for something bigger. All came together to celebrate their united love for the sport. It was wonderful to see the players’ highs and lows, the intense excitement and the euphoric screams, the despondency for lost shots and the exhilaration of every point. No one can forget the stamina of 60-year-old players who played for 4 hours straight, the elation of first-time winners, the happiness of the staff and how experienced athletes taught us how to lose with grace. These incredible players are indeed an inspiration to the next generation of players across the tennis world. The Thailand Seniors Tennis Championship ITF Grade A is an experience that every Tennis fan should have!