Up against the best of our talent

YOUNG ACE: Stephen Stoddart is preparing to show his skills alongside the cream of Australia’s tennis talent at the December Showdown series.
YOUNG ACE: Stephen Stoddart is preparing to show his skills alongside the cream of Australia’s tennis talent at the December Showdown series. Cathy Adams

SOARING Goonellabah tennis ace Stephen Stoddart is preparing to test his skills alongside the country's finest tennis talent.

The 11-year-old, who has improved his ranking by hundreds of places this year, will compete in the forthcoming Optus 12s Australian Championships.

Melbourne Park - the home of Australian tennis - will host the tournament which is part of three weeks of action featuring some of the nation's best players.

Proud father John said earning a place at the tournament was deserved reward for his son, who will also represent a combined NSW/ACT side in a teams' tournament at the event.

"It was not a priority at the start of the year (to qualify), but he has done really well," Mr Stoddart said.

Stephen has really kicked on over the last two or three months since he started playing a few more tournaments.

"He has worked pretty hard and made some big improvements in his game."

Left-handed Stephen, a Summerland Christian College student, may have to first qualify for the 24-player tournament.

The competition is part of the December Showdown series, which got under way earlier this week.

Similar tournaments will also take place in 14, 16 and 18 age groups.

The event will also feature the senior wild card play-offs for next month's Australian Open.

Despite the daunting prospect ahead, Mr Stoddart said his son would not be phased.

"I think he has got a good temperament," he said. "Nothing seems to worry him too much.

"He is a good attacking player. He is pretty aggressive and hits the ball very hard for his age."

Stephen also has been selected for a NSW/ACT side taking part in the Australian Teams Championships.

Sides from New Zealand also will be involved, contesting singles and doubles matches against each other.

"It is going to be tough playing against the best kids in Australia in his age group," Mr Stoddart said.

"He has got another year in this group, so it is a good chance to measure himself against his peers.

"It should be a good event."

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