Alice dashes local hopes

By Adam Hicks

ALICE WATTER got wiped out by dodgy prawns, then cleaned up near the Big Prawn.

The 16-year-old yesterday won the Ballina New Year's Tennis Open women's final 6-0 6-3 from Ellie Wray, of Lismore, after recovering from a serious bout of food poisoning.

Watter, of the Sunshine Coast, was a late unseeded entrant in the tournament after exiting the Junior Australian Open in the first round.

"I should have been seeded but I was planning on playing in the Junior Australian Open," she said.

"But I got down there and got really sick from eating sweet chilli prawns. I went into the only restaurant in Traralgon (east of Melbourne) that wasn't busy; now I know why it wasn't busy."

The 2006 Australian Under-16 champion was an unlikely finalist at Ballina after meeting her doubles partner and number one seed Jessica Schear in the quarter-finals.

Watter had never beaten Schear until she pulled off the upset of the tournament with a 4-6 7-5 (10-2 tiebreak) win.

Yesterday, she blasted number two seed Wray off the court with deep, powerful ground strokes.

"She just played too good for me," Wray said.

"She put lots of shots deep and on the line. I was always on the backfoot, doing a lot of running and never got to dominate a rally. She was physically stronger and forced me to do all the retrieving."

Watter said that was her gameplan: "I set the points up well with heavy ground strokes, deep, then came in to finish the point from inside the baseline. I knew I couldn't hit too many straight back to her so I just wanted to keep her moving and not do too much running."

Watter claimed the $500 winner's prize for her efforts, but the final was not all business.

A feature of the match was the friendly banter the girls exchanged at each rest. "Ellie is a very friendly girl," Watter said.

"She asked me if I was going into Year 12 next year and told me how she just finished her HSC and how good it felt. It (chatting) is quite unusual but I think that's just Ellie.

"She's like that with everyone."

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