Tennis in Malta – A brief history of the Malta Tennis Federation

1966 will for long be remembered as the birth year of tennis in Malta. Although previous organisations had been set up way back in 1920 and 1949, these LTA’s had been disbanded.

The sport which we now see flourishing on our islands, in its first years had been restricted to a limited number of players, with access to the then few existing clubs being considerably difficult for Maltese citizens. However tennis has, since its very first years, enjoyed a good popularity among the Maltese citizens, mainly due to the British military presence on our island. In fact tennis wise, we owe a lot to the British as tennis courts mushroomed over Malta. These were mostly located in chosen parts of the island, with the main courts being at the Union Club and the United Services Sports Club (now the Marsa Sports Club).

The 5th day of September of 1966 saw the first meeting of the MLTA, when the promoters of the association – Mr. A. Herrera, Mr. O. Tanti and Mrs. F. Herrera, opened an important page in the history of tennis in Malta.

The setting up of a working committee, and the drawing up of a statute immediately led to the official birth of the Malta Lawn Tennis Association on the 10th October 1966, chaired by the late Mr. L.B. Pinto; Mr. A. Herrera and Mrs. P. Vassallo started the series of secretaries and treasurers respectively. The first committee meeting was held on Monday 17th October 1966 at the USSC when various items of national importance were dealt with. Few of the items on the agenda comprised the approval of the association’s rules by club representatives, a coaching course to be led by Mr. Pinto, affiliations, and the possibility of holding a Malta Championship the following year. This was in fact held in 1967, and since then has been organised without fail.

Tennis in Malta is now in its forty sixth year and since its existence has seen the setting up of various major and minor clubs. With further direct interest in the game always flourishing, several clubs were created, some of which date back to the first years of the MLTA’s existence. In fact, apart from the Union Club and the Marsa Sports Club, there were the Rabat MPFA, Hamrun Tennis Club, Banks’ Sports Association, Civil Services Sports Club and Exiles Club. Some of these are still very active members of the Malta Tennis Federation, joining more recent clubs such as the Vittoriosa Lawn Tennis Club, Tennis Club Kordin, Catenians, Balluta Rackets, Swieqi/St. Andrews Tennis Club, Rinella Tennis Club and Zejtun Allcomers Tennis Club – to mention a few. Obviously, we cannot forget the club on our sister island Gozo – the Gozo Island Tennis Club. The most recent additions to the list of affiliated clubs were the B’Kara Tennis Club, St. Aloysius Tennis Club, Medical Tennis, Malta University Tennis Club and Zebbug Tennis Club.

In its strive to further improve the game in Malta, the MLTA soon aimed at International levels, and in 1985 Malta was accepted as a full member of the ITF during its AGM held in Barcelona. This enabled the Men’s National Team to participate in the Davis Cup in 1986, while the ladies took part in the Federation Cup. This membership also meant that Malta could organise official ITF events, which turned into reality in 1987, when the first Satellite Circuit was organized.

1989 opened another important chapter in the milestones of the history of Maltese tennis. The European Tennis Association accepted Malta as a full member and entrusted Malta with the organization of another ETA tournament.

During the years 1990-2000, considered to be the golden years of local tennis, big leap forward were experienced. The local association not only participated in a number of international tournaments abroad, but proved itself capable of organizing such international events in Malta with honourable success, reaching international standards. No less than four European Championships, two Davis Cup ties, three ATP Challenger Tournaments, two ITF Junior World Ranking events, as well as other friendly encounters were organised.

The 1994 Annual General Meeting of the MLTA brought with it a new name – the Malta Tennis Federation. That year’s AGM also saw an important change in the Federation. The previous ‘Malta Tennis Umpires Association’ was amalgamated to the Malta Tennis Federation, leading to the forming up of another sub-sector of the MTF the MTFOC (Malta Tennis Federation Officiating Committee).

The President at the time of the Malta Tennis Federation, Mag. Dr. Lino Farrugia Sacco, who was also active in the administration of the early MLTA era, formed part of the Administration team of the European tennis scene. In fact, Dr. Farrugia Sacco was a member of the European Tennis Association’s Men’s Committee – an honour indeed for the Malta Tennis Federation.

Mr. Peter Zammit became President in the year 2000 after Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco became President of the Malta Olympic Committee. Mr Zammit continued the good work and during his tenure the Davis Cup Zonal Group and the Tennis Europe Junior AGM were held in Malta.

In 2004 Mr Tony Cilia Pisani took the Presidency and during his tenure the MTF had a very active period organizing once again the AGM of Tennis Europe, the FED Cup, the Coaches Symposium, and the ITF Level II Coaching Certificate.

Dr. David Farrugia Sacco [son of Lino] was elected in 2008. During his tenure to date, there has been a steady increase in the number of international junior tournaments organised locally which now total seven per year from the original two, the setting up of the Junior Academy, the organisation of a FED Cup, a level 1 and level 2 ITF Coaching Course, and the composition of the Officiating Section.

Tennis has also proved to be one of the leading sports in Malta as regards Small Nations’ Games. To date tennis has brought over five gold medals, six silver medals and seventeen bronze medals.

The main goal of the MTF is the construction of the Tennis Centre that would be a mile stone for tennis in Malta.