An Andover tennis coach has been recognised for his “fantastic” work by winning the national lifetime achievement award from British tennis’ governing body.

Bash Kara, who is still coaching at 81 years young, received the accolade from the President of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) on Saturday, July 17 at Andover Lawn Tennis Club. Speaking to the Advertiser, Bash dedicated his award to all those who made the club a success.

“It’s a very prestigious award, and I’m honoured,” he said. “But it’s not for me, it’s for the whole team. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. I’ve come to collect it, but it was won by all of them.”

In particular, he paid tribute to former club member Margaret Winnett, who was a driving force behind the club.

“She passed away just over a year ago,” he said, “and she worked tirelessly to get the club here, so I’m really dedicating it to her. Her role in planning, fundraising and co-ordinating the building at this site is a legacy that’s totally unreal.”

The LTA President, David Rawlinson, also paid tribute to Bash, telling the Advertiser: “He’s tremendous. Bash is a lifetime volunteer and thoroughly deserves this award for his outstanding work.”

Bash has a long history of coaching tennis, having taught budding players for decades.

“It’s very satisfying,” he said. “I want to give them something to do, to give them pleasure and boost their mental wellbeing. You don’t push them. Some progress and become very good players, but having fun is what counts.”

“I’ve been doing it week by week, month by month, but it’s been so fun and enjoyable that I kept going. It’s tiring on old legs but good fun.”

Bash also has tried to make tennis more accessible for all throughout his career, running tennis sessions in Southampton council estates and running a session with John McEnroe to bring the issue to the attention of then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

It was this that saw Alison Beard nominate him for the award, with Bash up against 2000 other entrants across the UK.

“Bash is an amazing coach,” she said, “and if you ask him to do anything with his kids he’ll do it. He set up in Southampton and went into estates and got tennis into people’s lives. I think Bash has had a tremendous influence, and has really opened up tennis to all. Sport really has an important impact on childrens’ lives. He’s my hero!”

Bash has previously been recognised with a county award for his work, and last year won the regional and national lifetime achievement awards. Due to Covid, the ceremony could only go ahead this week.

“First the country award, then the regional award, then national winner, it’s a fantastic achievement,” said David. “But he didn’t stop there, he got a British Empire Medal as well and an invitation to the Royal Box at Wimbledon.

“We had to turf him out after watching all day before he was back on the court at 8am the next morning! He’s an extremely worthy winner.”

After winning the award, Bash has no plans on hanging up his racket just yet.

“I’ll keep going for as long as I can,” he said. “As long as my legs can carry me, and my old wrists can hold a racket, then I’ll keep going.”