Benalla tennis has its own hardcourt championships — and it’s only for Benalla and district players.
Run on a pool format the singles tournament has attracted 16 of the best local players to compete for the inaugural crown.
Tournament co-ordinator Mick Levy said a group of regulars recognised there was a gap in the sport for a hardcourt tournament — for locals.
Levy said the town already had an established lawn tournament with a proud history.
‘‘But this gives the hardcourt players their own event and by restricting it to locals we believe it will be a prestigious event in the sport here in Benalla,’’ Levy said.
‘‘We are hoping, pretty confident, that and this will become a sought after title.
‘‘We have 16 guys this year, but this is a truly open event and we are hoping it will have equal appeal to the women players in town, as well as some of our stronger juniors.’’
The pool format was introduced to make it an even competition — where everyone got to play everyone else so nothing was affected by a good draw or similar.
Levy said the oldest player in the pool was in his early 60s and the youngest were about 18, 19 and early 20s.
This week is the last pool round, which have been one set matches.
From there eight players move into the next round, still at a set per match.
Those eight players are Matt Crittenden, Jeremie Boulanger, Michael Levy, Jason Boyle, Matt Cook, Indi Whittingslow, Brad Tomkin and Dylan Patuzska.
‘‘In the semis and the final it will be true tournament player,’’ Levy said.
‘‘Best of three sets, with no tiebreaker in the third — and the final is set for February 26,’’ he said.
‘‘We have been delighted with the response and the interest and we are determined to build this as a long-term event.
‘‘We didn’t want to set something up where Melbourne players turn up just for the wine and the prizes; this is a Benalla tournament all about Benalla.’’
Levy said the organisers were hoping junior players would aspire to getting involved in the tournament down the track.
He said it was clearly getting some traction in the tennis community because there was nothing else like it in town.
It is being played at Benalla Gardens Tennis Club, which he said was the only hardcourt complex big enough to handle the pool round in one night.
‘‘We want to provide the pedestal for the town and once the inaugural winner is on it anybody who wants to knock him off will be able to have a crack next summer,’’ Levy said.
‘‘We want this to be a blue-ribbon fixture on the annual local tennis calendar and we are pretty happy we have made a good start.’’
Levy said the tournament was now also looking for a sponsor to help make it grow in the next few years. Anyone who wants to discuss that can phone him on 0433 520 809.
Successful: Jeremie Boulanger was one of eight players to make it through to the knock-out stage.