Defending Open champs give Ballina a miss


DEFENDING champion Grant Silcock will not play in the Ballina Bowling Club New Year Tennis Open starting tomorrow, leaving the men's singles draw wide open.

Silcock, a Queenslander based in the Netherlands, would have been favourite to repeat his efforts of last year.

However, he told organiser John Whitty earlier this week he was unavailable.

"The Ballina tournament is clashing with another tournament on the Sunshine Coast (Kawana Waters)," Whitty said.

"Unfortunately, we will be missing a few from last year.

"He (Silcock) apologised, but he had already committed himself up there.

"He said he'd be back next year."

The Kawana Waters tournament is an Association of Tennis Professionals satellite event with ranking points up for grabs.

The reason for the clash is that the Ballina Open is being played one week later than normal due to unusual circumstances.

Two committee members of the Ballina Tennis Club were being married last week, tying up all the personnel who would normally run the event.

Silcock, who has won the New Year Tennis Open four times, is not the only champion missing due to the Kawana Waters tournament.

Defending women's champion Marinet Morgan, of Brisbane, is another who will be on the Sunshine Coast rather than in Ballina.

With Silcock out of the equation, Whitty now believes there are three standouts in the men's draw.

One is the 2004 runner-up Mark Way, formerly of Alstonville, plus Queenslanders Chris Letcher and Darron Kretchman.

Letcher was a semi-finalist last year, while Kretchman was knocked out in the quarter-finals.

With Morgan now out of the women's singles, Ballina player Shae Whitty could be counted as one of the favourites in the women's singles.

Whitty was runner-up last year, losing to Morgan in a tight final.

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