Juniors fight for ranking points

THE top seeds dominated at the Sale Tennis Club Queen’s Birthday Junior Tournament.

The club welcomed 90 juniors, competing in three age groups.

The event had “silver” status, attracting the second highest level of player national ranking points. These points are highly sought after by players pursuing a serious tennis career as they allow automatic entry to the next level of tournaments and ultimately to events on the professional circuit.

The weather intervened Saturday morning, turning the courts into a lake and giving tournament director Mick Mullen some scheduling headaches.

Several matches were delayed, but eventually the rain blew over and a large crew of volunteers spent the next few hours with the water rollers getting the puddles off the courts. Play resumed at 2pm.

The biggest field was in the 12 and under boys, with 33 players.

Top seed Sean Flanagan, from Mt Waverley, reached the semi-finals before being forced to retire hurt.

This left fourth seed Leon Hemmimgs to battle out the final with second seed Edward Winter from Adelaide. In a high quality final, Winter won 6-2 6-3.

In the 12 and under girls’ final, top seed Zahra Arthur from Mt Martha, ranked 567 in Australia for her age group, defeated Alexandra Luders 6-1 6-0. Luders defeated the second seed to make the final.

Jennifer McDonald defeated Gemma Ashe in the 14 and under girls’ final 6-1 6-3, lifting her Australian ranking to inside the top 500. Top seed Ashe, from Newborough, had dropped only one game before losing to the second seed in the final.

The 14 and under boys’ title was won by Andrew Ilett from Glen Waverley, who defeated top seed Cooper White from Alphington 6-2 6-2 in the final. Ilett had to outlast Ben Grumley from Traralgon in the semi-final 5-7 6-3 6-2 to earn a spot in the final.

The 16 and under boys’ event proved to be the exception, with unseeded Kris Murthi from Glen Iris defeating the third and second seeds to make the final.

Murthi defeated top seed Aaron Valenzuela from Traralgon in the final, 7-6 7-5. The tennis was of the highest quality played in front of a large crowd.

Taylor Stephenson from Sale and Will Runciman from Maffra were both successful in their first round matches before going down to seeded players in the quarter-finals.

Sale Tennis Club president Robin Lowe said the event was a credit to the players, officials and everyone involved.

“As our major junior points event for the year, the tournament brought a large crowd to Sale for the weekend,” he said.

“The feedback from the players and their parents and coaches was very positive and the club expects an even stronger field in 2017.

“It takes a huge effort to stage an event of this size and the club volunteers all pulled together to ensure that it went smoothly.”

In addition to local players, there was a strong contingent from Traralgon, good representation from Bairnsdale, a large number from Melbourne as well as players from the ACT, New South Wales and South Australia.

This was the tournament’s seventh year, with the younger brothers and sisters of the players from the earlier tournaments returning to Sale to compete on the en-tout-cas courts.