Easter feast of tennis at Maffra

Maffra Lawn Tennis Club president Terry Flynn congratulates Australian number 62 Katherine Westbury on her Presidents Cup singles win at Maffra Easter tournament.

Maffra Lawn Tennis Club president Terry Flynn congratulates Australian number 62 Katherine Westbury on her Presidents Cup singles win at Maffra Easter tournament.

A RECORD crowd attended Maffra Lawn Tennis Club's 94th Easter Tournament over the weekend, with 300 entrants making it the largest tournament in recent history.

After the tournament was cancelled last year because of the pandemic, tournament organisers were thrilled to see such a large crowd enthusiastically make up for lost ground in a celebration of Gippsland's only lawn courts.

The prestigious President's Cup singles events were taken out by Traralgon's David Hough and Katherine Westbury, from New Zealand, who both pocketed an impressive $1200 in prize money.

With a healthy mix of new faces and old favourites taking to the court, the club's volunteers were able to pump through about 620 matches over the four days - including an unusual stint of tennis under lights on Saturday night to get through the higher number of matches.

The prestigious President's Cup singles events were taken out by Traralgon's David Hough and Katherine Westbury, from New Zealand, who both pocketed an impressive $1200 in prize money.

Returning last year from San Diego State University in California after spending three years in the college's tennis program, Hough beat hometown hero and tournament director Mitchell Allman in a gruelling three and a half hour, three-set thriller to wrestle the coveted MLTC green blazer - a garment only awarded to those who win the President's Cup three times - off Allman.

The number one seed took the first set 6-4, but Allman fought back to take the second in a tiebreaker, before Hough finished the job 6-4.

Allman, seeded third, had defeated Australian number 219 David Bulbulian the day previous in another three set hard slog to make his way into the final.

There was no break for Allman and Hough following the conclusion of the singles - as soon as they shook hands, the tournament box turned them back around to stay out on court, and the two paired up to face off against Bulbulian and Australian number 162 Timothy McConchie in the open doubles.

It was slightly less of an arduous battle for Allman and Hough, who managed to clinch the match 6-3, 7-6.

In the women's open singles, Westbury - currently ranked number 62 in Australia - was hardly bothered during her journey to the final, dropping seven games across her six sets and beating number two seed Belle Thompson 6-2 6-1 in one hour and 10 minutes to take the President's Cup.

In the open women's doubles, Rosanna's Kerrie Douglas and St Kilda's Isabelle Gemmel - in her first Maffra Easter tournament - ruthlessly worked their way through the draw, and defeated Bairnsdale's Stephanie Barnett and Jodi Krambehr 6-1 6-4 in just under an hour and a half to claim the title.

In the mixed, Allman made his third open grand final appearance for Monday, pairing with Moe's Ksenija Varesanovic to defeat Jack Taylor and Thompson, 6-4 7-5.

Tournament co-director and club treasurer Jake Weir said he was ecstatic with how the tournament ran, with the only hiccup being when the club blew an electrical phase during its Hi-Tac night on Sunday, prompting a late night call out from AusNet.

"The standard of tennis from both male and females was exceptional, with the most open entries across the board in more than 10 years," he said.

Weir said while the court surface had been a concern leading into the weekend, with a deluge of rain softening the surface a week prior, sunshine each day had them improving to the point of perfection by Sunday for semi final matches.

"Plenty of work had been put into the courts in the lead up and during the tournament, with rolling and mowing pretty much every day," he said.

"It was nice to hear feedback suggesting the courts were at a similar standard to some professionally maintained courts, particularly as we're a volunteer-run club."

Weir said it was going to be hard to top 2021's tournament next year.

"All in all, with the perfect weather, high entries and high spirits, it's going to be a tough act to follow, but hopefully with some new clubrooms, grandstands and fencing, we'll be able to get across that line in 2022," he said.

A refurbishment of the club is set to begin in the coming weeks, with contracts already awarded for new fencing, and final design work underway for new clubrooms.

The first Maffra Easter tournament was hosted in 1922 on four asphalt courts at St Mary's Primary School.

From 1937 to 1948, the tournament experimented with grass courts on the recreation reserve, before the club founded its own in 1949. The opening featured a mixed doubles exhibition match between Frank Sedgeman, Merv Rose, Nell Hopman and Nancy Bolton - all number one players in Australia at the time.

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