World record attempt aims to promote tennis in townships

Tennis partners Carlos Gomes and Wendy Thompson plan to play a 65 hour tennis match, starting on February 3.

Two Constantia tennis players are planning to take a whack at a Guinness World Record and rally support for grassroots tennis teams in the townships.

Mixed-doubles partners Carlos Gomes and Wendy Thompson plan to play a 65-hour-long singles match and smash the current record of 63 hours 27 minutes and 40 seconds.

The marathon match will be held at the Constantia Tennis Club, from 5pm on Friday February 3 to 10am on Monday February 6.

To beat the record, they have to play a match and not just hit the ball to each other. No substitutes are allowed and the entire game must be filmed with a clock visible at all times. They may take five minutes to rest, eat and sleep per hour played, not part of the hour, and this time may be accumulated.

Gomes and Thompson’s strategy is to play for 12 hours straight so they can sleep.

The idea was born when the club’s weekend league was invited to play in Khayelitsha.

“Teams tend to bale and forfeit the game rather than go there, as it’s perceived to be dangerous, even though the facility is on the boundary. Also the facilities aren’t good, so players don’t expect a good game,” said Gomes who lives in Sea Point and is chairman of Constantia Tennis Club.

Instead, they went, were warmly welcomed and then beaten by the home team.

The Constantia players were shocked at the conditions of the courts – a gravel surface, nets not hooked and barely marked lines. And yet there were some really good players.

Between games, Thompson phoned her husband, Graham, telling him about what she had seen at the Khayelitsha courts. He told her not to “whinge” but rather do something about it. So she spoke to Gomes and they volleyed some ideas back and forth about getting celebrities to play or asking for donations.

Thompson, a mother of three teenagers and chairwoman of the midweek ladies’ league, held a breakfast and raised R12 500. But that wasn’t nearly enough to resurface Khayelitsha’s four courts, erect some fencing and build a clubhouse.

“So they teamed up with Casper Steenkamp of Christian-based Kingdom DNA, an NGO that works in Khayamandi, Stellenbosch, and uses religion and sport to create community leaders and role models.

One year later, they have started a charity called Grass Roots Tennis, and now they are ready to ace the record.

“We’re now individually rallying people to sponsor us for every hour completed and we’re looking for corporate sponsors,” said Thompson.

The baseline is to raise enough money to resurface five courts, to build two clubhouses and to start a tennis academy for youngsters in Khayelitsha and Khayamandi.

They insist that it must be sustainable as they want the players to reach league level and even play overseas.

They have already had a trial run playing for 24 hours last November, illustrating what they need: lip balm for Gomes, a massage for Thompson and proper nutrition for both. But most of all, they realise it’s teamwork and having the right head space, especially getting them through the dark, quiet spaces.

“They’ll have to stretcher me off,” laughed Gomes adding that seeing the Khayelitsha kids watching them will help. Gomes and Thompson’s mantra is: “A kid on court is a kid out of court.”

Call Gomes at 079 512 1256 and visit www.grassrootstennis.co.za if you would like to support them.

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