A new trophy named in honour of the late Angie Cunningham, who lost her long battle with Motor Neurone Disease in 2016, is the prize on offer for the 2018 women’s singles champion at the Hobart International.
As the event celebrates its 25th edition this year, tournament director Darren Sturgess is excited about the beginning of a new era.
The introduction of an innovatively-designed women’s singles champion trophy, replacing the wooden Tasmania-shaped trophy used since 1994, reflects this.
“Tasmania has a wonderfully progressive arts and cultural scene and we see the tournament looking to embrace this in the future,” Sturgess explained of the new-look trophy.
Tennis Tasmania worked with the University of Tasmania, using cutting-edge virtual reality technology to create an art design inspired by a female forehand stroke. Launceston-based designer Anita Dineen created the modern trophy.
Angie Cunningham (nee Woolcock) was a world No.2-ranked junior from Launceston who made Australian Open and Wimbledon junior girls’ doubles finals. She competed in the inaugural Hobart International in 1994 and later became the WTA Tour’s Vice-President of Player Relations and On-Site Operations. After a courageous battle with Motor Neurone Disease, she passed away at age 43 in 2016.
“To coincide with the 25th edition of our event, we felt there was no greater way to honour a legendary Tasmanian tennis identity who was respected globally,” Sturgess explained.
“Tennis Australia is an official partner of FightMND, a charity many tennis fans, players and staff can resonate with.
“At Hobart International this year, we are proud to be helping promote the summer tennis campaign, Smash MND in an effort to raise awareness of the debilitating disease that has affected so many, including Angie.”
Cunningham’s husband Pat, speaking on behalf of the couple’s two daughters as well as Angie’s parents and siblings, said their family was grateful for the honour.
“We’re humbled and incredibly proud – I know that’s a clichéd way to describe it, but it’s true,” he said.
“This honour is incredibly meaningful to her family. Angie was a proud Tasmanian, so to be recognised in this way in her local community is something very special.”
Although based in London for 10 years while she worked for the WTA Tour – the Hobart International was an event that always remained close to Angie’s heart and she travelled back many times to assist in her official role.
“It was a tournament that Angie always insisted on being involved in,” Pat recalled.
This year her daughters, now 11 and 8, will continue that tradition of involvement and present the inaugural Angie Cunningham Trophy to the women’s singles champion.
“No doubt it will be an emotional moment – but we are, and always will be, proud of the contribution Angie made while she was with us,” Pat said.
“To be honest she would be embarrassed by this level of attention – it wasn’t her style to be front and centre in this way – however, we are very humbled and proud. This really is a beautiful thing.”
FightMND is the official charity partner of Tennis Australia and the Australian Open. Motor Neurone Disease is a terminal neurological disease with no treatment and cure. FightMND raises funds to assist research to find a cure and support those affected. Visit fightmnd.org.au to purchase a FightMND visor or make a donation.