24 Dec 2003

Taranaki Tennis Open Dec 27-Dec 30 2003

Entries are good in quantity and quality for this years Taranaki Tennis Open, at the Hawera Lawn Tennis courts on Albion St according to tournament organiser, Andrew Baylis. Over 110 entries had been received including players from Germany, USA and Australia.

Two-time singles winner of the Mens Open, Gareth Ballantine, returns to the grass courts of Hawera to defend the title he won last year. Gareth, from New Plymouth, but currently based in Christchurch is the No. 1 seed in the mens draw. He will be joined in the doubles by another two-time winner, Mark Belcher. Eleven of the 16-strong field are from outside Taranaki. Strong opposition to the top two seeds will come from Lower Hutt’s Oliver Petri and Ivan Mendoza, Wanganui’s Wilton Atkins and Simon O’Leary, and Taranaki’s Chris Patten and Max Ladame.

The women’s singles field is wide open this year with the unavailability of defending champion Kelly Toa. Top chances are Gayle Tapper and Rita Paczian, both from Auckland, Tracey Hall from Wellington, along with Leith Atkins and Nicole Koch from Taranaki.

The junior age groups have good numbers in most categories but especially in the 16 year old boys. Taranaki’s top ranked junior, Zachary Wills, will have plenty of opposition from other nationally ranked players, Patrick Tapper and Ben Norris, Auckland, Andrew Irving, Waikato, and Kurt McNamara, Manawatu.

An international flavour exists in the 10 year old boys’ competition with entries received from Keenan Smith, Kansas, USA and Lennart Lonnemann, Germany. A squad of boys and girls from NSW are also spread across the age groups with the stars likely to be James Bullivant (12 boys) and Melika Grose (14 girls).

An addition to this year’s tournament is age group combined doubles. This form of competition is rarely seen within the junior tournaments and it has proven popular with the entrants.

The tournament starts on Saturday for age groups, Sunday for adult grades and runs through to Tuesday.