Luke Edwards
Luke Edwards

Top draw for New Year Open

ENTRIES have closed for the 2010 Ballina New Year Open tennis tournament with a record number of players to take the court.

The tournament – to be played at the Ballina Tennis Club from January 7 to 10 – has attracted 406 entries.

The men’s singles draw includes 79 players while 35 women will compete for the women’s title.

Ballina Tennis Club president and tournament director John Whitty has been overwhelmed by the popularity of the event and is sure it will be the most hotly contested in recent years.

“Unlike most previous years there does not seem to be an obvious favourite and this event is shaping up to be one of the most evenly contested for many years,” Whitty said.

Bryce Devlin (Lismore), Luke Edwards (Lismore), Paul Denning (Alstonville), Steven Strong (Alstonville), Nathan Whitty (Ballina) and Mick Sherry (Casino) will fly the flag for the locals in the men’s draw, but Whitty admits it will be tough going for them against the calibre of interstate players who have entered.

Whitty named former ATP player Patrick Flynn, 2009 quarter-finalist Michael Hole and father/son pair Neil and Blake Smith as the most likely contenders for the men’s title.

“The likely favourites at this stage include Patrick Flynn from the Sunshine Coast, who will certainly make his younger opponents earn their keep,” Whitty said.

“Michael Hole is a big-hitting left-hander with good results from a number of tournaments in Melbourne and Adelaide; while Neil Smith is a former ATP player and his son Blake should also provide plenty of interest after winning the Australian 18 years hardcourt championship earlier this year.”

Taylor Moore (Lismore) and sisters Kim and Shae Whitty (Ballina) will be chasing the money in the women’s event but will need to be sharp to get past a player like Jennifer Nguyen, who is ranked 83 in Australia and has an ITF world junior ranking of 250.

The 2009 runner-up Taylor Douglas will also be in contention.

Matches start at 8am next, with full amenities for supporters and spectators.

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