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LATEST NEWS

17 January 2024 - Mike Dickson

Mike Dickson, the Daily Mail tennis correspondent and former BTJA chairman, passed away on Wednesday, 17 January, aged 59. Mike was a respected colleague and friend, who was in Melbourne, covering the 24th Australian Open of his distinguished career.  Simon Briggs, tennis correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, pays tribute (below) to his friend. The piece was first published in the Telegraph on 18 January 2024.

It was another busy day for British players at the Australian Open, and yet the forehands and backhands failed to occupy one’s attention in the way that they usually do.

 

The explanation was simple. Everyone at this tournament is still reeling from the most tragic news: the passing of the Daily Mail’s tennis correspondent Mike Dickson, who collapsed and died in the small hours of Wednesday morning. He was a week short of his 60th birthday.

 

For the most part, journalists are a tangential part of a giant operation like the Australian Open. We ask a few questions and scribble a few lines. Players and administrators view us as a minor irritant, like room tax or athlete’s foot.

 

And yet, once in a while, a reporter transcends the restrictions of the press room, and becomes something akin to the conscience of a sport. In the 1960s, you had Brian Glanville (Sunday Times) in football and EW Swanton (Daily Telegraph) in cricket; in the 1970s, Bud Collins (The Boston Globe) in tennis.

 

Today, a fragmented media landscape makes it harder to achieve such iconic status. But Mike was the nearest modern equivalent. When he chose to tackle a substantial topic, his words had a tablets-of-stone quality. His was a voice of effortless authority.

 

His passing has stunned and saddened every member of the tennis bubble. As soon as his Daily Mail colleagues were informed on Wednesday night (Australian time), our phones began to light up with messages. Condolences, expressions of shock, desperate hopes that the news might be fake. A host of major champions – including Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Coco Gauff – expressed their sorrow on social media. The hierarchy of Tennis Australia discussed possible tributes. A tweet sent by his family, confirming the tragedy, clocked almost 3m views.

 

Mike had friends everywhere, even among those he wrote about – which is an almost impossible feat to pull off. During the recent Davis Cup finals in Malaga, he spent a couple of evenings in the company of Dan Evans, who had ripped a calf but still came out to support the British team. Last year, he helped Cameron Norrie’s parents, David and Helen, as they house-hunted for a place in south-west London. Andy Murray never failed to stop for a handshake and a chat on his way through the player lounge.

 

And yet, all these players knew they could expect no soft-pedalling, no punch-pulling, in Mike’s reports. Underperformance, poor preparation, petulance on the court: he would write it how he saw it. “I trusted him and knew he would always be fair,” said Sue Barker in a tribute published by the Mail. “That is all you could ask really.”

 

That was Mike Dickson, the tennis guru. But what of the private man? The lover of William Boyd’s novels and Joe Jackson’s records? The devoted husband and father who spent so many weekends watching his eldest son play for Wimbledon CC? The generous mentor who offered up-and-coming reporters advice, contacts, and even free lodging?

 

Suffice to say, I feel privileged to have known him. Mike was old-school in many ways: upright in his bearing, more formally dressed than the rest of us scruffy hacks, conservative in his political views. But his X-factor was the way that he undercut these traditional values with a mischievous sense of humour and a complete lack of pomposity or ego. It was a rare and winning combination.

 

When I think of Mike, I will think of him sitting at his desk, turning to look over his shoulder (stiffly, for he was a martyr to sciatica), and delivering a wry one-liner, accompanied by his distinctive, infectious chuckle. It’s hard to believe that I’ll never hear that laugh again.

11 January 2024 - Ron Atkin

Ron Atkin, an honorary vice president and a former chairman, passed away on Thursday, 11 January, aged 92.

Ron was a well-respected tennis writer and author, he covered more than 40 editions of Wimbledon for the Observer, Guardian, Independent on Sunday, and Sunday Telegraph. In 1983 he won the SJA's Sports Writer of the Year award.

 

Ron also featured in our podcast series with Chris Jones two years ago. Episode 3 is available to listen to here: https://www.btja.co.uk/podcasts.

12 December 2023 - Hewett Named BTJA Player of the Year

Alfie Hewett has been named the British Tennis Journalists' Association Player of the Year for 2023 in recognition of a stellar season that saw him finish as the world No 1 in both wheelchair singles and doubles.

The 26-year-old won five grand-slam titles: the Australian Open and US Open in singles, and the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in doubles with Gordon Reid. He then won the season-ending Masters in singles and doubles to secure the year-end No 1 ranking in both disciplines.

 

Hewett is the first ever wheelchair competitor to become the BTJA's Player of the Year. The award, formerly known as the Main Award, dates back to 1951, when the Lawn Tennis Writers' Association [our previous title] was founded. Past winners include Andy Murray, Emma Raducanu and Virginia Wade.

The award was decided by a ballot of BTJA members. Hewett received 50 per cent of the vote, beating Katie Boulter (21%). Neal Skupski (21%), Joe Salisbury (5%) and Cameron Norrie (3%).

 

"2023 has been really special," Hewett said. "To finish the year as world No 1 in both singles and doubles has been a huge goal of mine from the outset of my career and I so appreciate the support along the way to make this happen. 

 

"In particular I feel we have again seen continued progression and amazing exposure for the sport of wheelchair tennis. I’m ever grateful to all parties including the British tennis journalists who have backed us and given us a platform to chat about this amazing sport. I only hope for this to continue and continue to grow. Thank you kindly for this award. Bring on 2024."

 

Christine Truman Janes is the winner of the BTJA's Services to British Tennis award. The 82-year-old is being recognised for her significant contribution to the sport, both as a player and a broadcaster.

 

"To be remembered, let alone recognised, is heart-warming at my age," Truman Janes said.

 

On the court, Truman Janes won the French Championships singles at the age of 18 in 1959 and the Australian Championships doubles with Maria Bueno in 1960. She also finished runner-up in the singles at the 1959 US Championships and Wimbledon in 1961.

 

Truman Janes claimed victories against many of the sport's great players, including Billie Jean King, Margaret Court and Althea Gibson. Beating the latter in 1958 helped Great Britain claim the Wightman Cup back from the United States for the first time in 28 years.

 

After retiring from tennis in the 1970s, Truman Janes worked for the BBC as a popular radio commentator for 34 years, working alongside the likes of Max Robertson and Des Lynam. In the 2001 Queen's Birthday Honours, she was awarded an MBE for services to tennis.

 

Both Hewett and Truman Janes will receive their awards today during the BTJA's annual lunch at the All England Club. A charity auction and raffle will also be held in support of Give It Your Max, a British charity working to enhance the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable children aged 4-18 through tennis.

18 October 2023 - David Irvine
David Irvine, an honorary vice president and former chairman of the BTJA in its days as the LTWA, has passed away at the age of 88 after a long illness. He worked for The Guardian from 1969 to 1996, including as its tennis correspondent for 20 years. David was also well known for his writing on rugby union.

A Tribute by Malcolm Folley:  
 

David was a constant figure in my life for years on the road, a generous, humorous man with an eye for statistics and the story they told in an age long before websites became a go-to facility for us. He was always up for a lively debate over dinner whether in New York, Paris or Lilleshall. Affectionately, he was known to the close band of tennis writers who travelled on the road together from the early Eighties as ‘Noddie’. It was not unusual after a convivial dinner, involving the odd flagon of red wine, for him to fall asleep at the table. David wrote erudite, straight-to-the-page copy for The Guardian. Old school through and through.

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