Adam Feeney during the Ballina New Year Open men’s singles final yesterday.
Adam Feeney during the Ballina New Year Open men’s singles final yesterday. DAVID NIELSEN

Adam Feeney eyes Aust Tennis Open

TOP seed Adam Feeney didn’t drop a set on his way to winning the Ballina New Year Open tennis tournament, but in the final yesterday he ran into the Energiser Bunny in Chris Letcher of the Gold Coast.

While Feeney was off collecting the $1000 winner’s cheque, Letcher was contemplating further playing commitments in the doubles and the mixed doubles.

 Considering he had already been on court for a marathon semi-final against Mat Klein earlier in day, it was a great effort by Letcher to push Feeney to a hard-fought 6-4 6-3 victory.

“I guess when you are on the court for three-and-a-half hours it has to take its toll and catch up with you eventually,” Letcher said after the final, which was played in near 30-degree heat.

“You could say that I was worn out, but at the end of the day I was simply outclassed bya better player.

“I could have served better, there were three breaks in the first set, and it just felt like the longer the rally went, the more I was in trouble, movement-wise, and the legs started to go.”

 Letcher, a two-time winner of the Ballina event, played his way into the final with an energy-sapping three-set win against Klein in the semi-final.

After dropping the first set in a tie-breaker, Letcher stormed back to win 6-7 6-1 7-6.

It gave Feeney plenty more time to rest and prepare for the final after he accounted for Lismore’s Brendan Moore 6-1 6-1 in the other semi earlier in the day.

Feeney, the tournament’s top seed, will now travel to Melbourne and try to chance his way into the main singles draw for the Australian Open, which begins on January 19.

“I will head down to Melbourne, but I’m not sure whether I am playing qualifiers yet. I am still 20 or 30 places out of qualifiers, but who knows, some people from overseas may not arrive, so I’ll give it a go,” Feeney said.

The 23-year-old from the Central Coast, who is ranked No16 in Australia, has more chance of gaining entry to the doubles draw with partner Robert Smeets of Queensland.

“So even if I’m not playing singles there is a fair chance I will get a spot in doubles,” he said.

Feeney had been trying to crack a place in the field for the Brisbane International and when he missed out on that, headed south to Ballina for some much-needed match practice and the chance to earn some valuable ranking points.

He showed the type of class that has earned him places in Grand Slam events like Wimbledon and the Australian Open, with his solid right-hand serve and reliably penetrating ground strokes.

Feeney never gave Letcher any easy points in the championship decider and put his opponent under extreme pressure on his serve by simply getting so many of his booming first serves back into play.

“It was very tough for Chris to back it up less than an hour after playing a long three-setter,” Feeney said.

“I didn’t drop a set, got a bit better each match, and got a tougher opponent each match, but today I didn’t feel like I was hitting the ball that well.

“Chris kept me moving and off balance on these type of courts, but I got there in the end.”

The Ballina tournament attracted a record number of entrants on the men’s side of the draw and Feeney hinted he may be back to defend his title.

“The draw attracted its biggest field and it is only going to get bigger and that is a good thing, so hopefully I will be back soon,” he said.

In the women’s final, No1 seed Madita Suer of Germany accounted for Newcastle’s Jenny-Anne Hoffman 6-1 6-0.

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