14 January 2009

Top Tennis Players Descend on Province

Arguably, the highest-ranked compilation of tennis players ever to come to the Taranaki region have arrived in Hawera for the 6th leg of the Configure Express NZ Money Tournament which begins today at the Hawera Lawn Tennis courts at Albion Street, along with an international chair umpire and NZ-based referee/line umpires.   

The Configure Express New Zealand Money Tournaments (NZMTís) provide players with the opportunity to compete in high-level tournaments as part of the Tennis NZ Peak Performance Pathway.  New Zealandís leading players, emerging and post-juniors along with international players have the opportunity to play the NZMTís throughout the summer season, gaining valuable match play.  Each NZMT carries a minimum of $8,600 in prize money.

Top-ten ranked New Zealand players abound in both the menís and womenís draws.

Amongst the 18 men attracted to the Open Singles at the only professional tournament in New Zealand held on natural grass courts are Marcus Daniell (NZ No.4), Adam Thompson (NZ No.5), Finn Tearney (NZ No.9 and No.1 in the 18s age group), Steven Downs (NZ No.19, former world No.1 junior and winner of Junior French Open and Wimbledon Junior Doubles [with James Greenhalgh]) and Sean Berman (highly-ranked US-based NZ junior).  They are joined by other nationally ranked players Logan MacKenzie (No.30), Michael Pigou (No.46) and Adam Staub (No.87).  Other entrants are the Manawatu pair of Kurt McNamara and Tim Preston (both winners of Taranaki Open senior titles) as well as local players Jono Ussher (Huatoki), Joshua Walden (Oakura), Cameron Koch (Manaia, recent winner of Manawatu 18 boys), David White (Matapu), Vincent Baylis and Andrew Powell (both Okaiawa) and Sean Mehrtens (Hawera).  Completing the menís field is Seungwon Seo.

There is a small but select field of 8 women entered in the Ladies Open singles.  Di Hollands (pictured) will be attempting to win her 7th professional tournament of the summer which has included the first 5 NZMTís.  Hollands is currently ranked NZ No.7 and despite being a touring professional, has never played a professional tournament on grass.  She is joined in the main draw by Kairangi Vano (NZ No.4), Shona Lee (NZ No. 6), Brittany Teei (NZ No.51) along with Taranaki entrants, Lucy Barlow (NZ No.22, 2008 NZ Lawn Tennis Singles champion, Huatoki), Nicole Koch (dual Taranaki Open winner, Manaia), Miaana Walden (2008 Taranaki Open Ladies Doubles winner, Oakura) and Rebecca Atkins (2008 Taranaki Open 16s girls doubles winner, Rotokare).

Tournament Co-ordinator, Andrew Baylis, is very happy with the quality of the fields.  ďFor most of the players, this will be their first visit to Hawera and also the first time that they have played on grass.  The courts are in excellent condition and I am confident that the players will enjoy the playing surface and the South Taranaki hospitality, and will provide spectators with a spectacularly high standard of tennis Ē

Sunday is Singles Finals day.  The Semi-Finals are scheduled for 10:00am with the Finals scheduled to follow at 1:30pm.  As well as free entry, spectators can expect some glorious tennis and entertaining supporting activities.

The singles events will begin this afternoon and evening and continue throughout Saturday.  Players will be officially welcomed this evening by South Taranaki District mayor, Ross Dunlop, at a short ceremony prior to a BBQ for players and the general public.  The BBQ for players and the public will be repeated on the Saturday evening.

The Configure Express NZMT6 is being run in conjunction with the NZ Lawn Tennis Championships singles, doubles and mixed doubles events.  Other events available for local players to enter, if they feel that they are not up to the Open standard, are social singles, doubles and mixed doubles.  Entries for all social and all doubles events being played over the weekend are still being accepted today with the tournament co-ordinator, Andrew Baylis.