Pres­ti­gious event

Benalla Ensign - - Sport -

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.

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