25 December 2008

"Hawera REAL Sports" Taranaki Tennis Open preview

Dec 27-Dec 30 2008

Frayne Bloor, formerly of Hawera, but now a professional tennis coach in Brisbane, returns to Hawera for the "Hawera REAL Sports" Taranaki Tennis Open which starts today, in Hawera.  Frayne brings with him an Australian tour party of 23 players mainly consisting of 14-18 year olds.

As well as tour party leader, Bloor will be playing in the Men's Open events where he is seeded at No.2 for the Open Singles and top seed in the Open Doubles (where he is partnered by Nick Margison).  Bloor has won the Taranaki Open Men's singles 3 times (1991, 1993 & 1999).  Nick Margison has also won 2 Taranaki Open titles previously.  Nick was 18 boys champion in 1993 and won the Open Combined Doubles in 2002.

Top seed for the Open Men's Singles is Waikato junior, Jayden Grinter.  Grinter is currently one of NZís top players in the 16s age group.  He is fresh from winning the 16s and 18s singles and doubles at the recent Waikato Junior Open.  Grinter also made the semi-final of NZ Money Tournament 1 where he was eventually beaten by Davis Cup player Dan King-Turner.  Grinter combines with Taranakiís Jordan Fleming for the Menís Open Doubles, where they are No.2 seeds.

Number 3 seed is Australian player, Jonnie Hallam, whilst Nick Margison is the number 4 seed.  The Men's Open singles field is 19 players strong and includes 8 Taranaki players including representative players, Jono Ussher, Jordan Fleming, Andrew Powell and John Hardie Boys.  Other highly ranked players in attendance are Brandon Rowe (Akld), Tim Low (Aust) and Gabriel Hernandez (NH).

A smaller field competes for the Ladies Open Singles title where No.1 seed, Taranakiís Hine Wilson, will have strong competition from Wanganuiís Paige Hourigan and the Australian pair of Sandy Lebl and Ellie Hargrave.

In the age group events, there are 107 individual entries from 10 to 18 years of age.  There are especially large draws for the 14 and 16 year old age groups.  Former title-holders returning are Jacob Gopperth (Manaia) 16 boys, Luke Piercey (Well) 14 boys, as well as Paige Hourigan (Wang) and Sarah Kelly (Matapu), both former 14s winners now vying for the 16s title.  Alice Caskey, last yearís 12s winner moves up to the 14s age group.

A support event that has grown markedly in the past two years is the B Grade Men's singles and doubles.  The B Grade events are for players below Open strength and this year has 33 entries for the singles and 34 for the doubles.  Top seeds are Darrell Bowater (Manawatu) and Mitchell McDonald (Kapi Mana).

According to Tournament Controller, Andrew Baylis, the Taranaki Open is unique in that with junior and senior events scheduled simultaneously, parents can play in events with their children and junior players can watch more experienced adult players throughout the tournament.  Fine weather is forecast for the four days of the tournament. 

Following on from the Taranaki Open, an Australia versus Taranaki Junior test match will be played on Saturday 3rd January, also at the Hawera courts.  Taranaki junior players interested in playing in this event should contact Tournament Controller, Andrew Baylis.     

Tournament play begins daily from 10am on the natural grass courts at the Hawera Lawn Tennis & Squash Club facilities on Albion St, Hawera.  Age Groups begin on Saturday 27th; adult grades begin on Sunday 28th and the tournament runs through to Tuesday 30th.

More top tennis is scheduled for Hawera on 15-18 January when the 6th Configure Express NZ Money Tournament is being played.  Dan King-Turner and Dianne Hollands have been dominant in the first 4 NZMT tournaments, played in Hamilton and Auckland, with the exception of Mark Neilson winning NZMT4 in King-Turnerís absence.