Tennis: Young Otago team faces a challenge

A young Otago tennis team, with seven juniors among the nine players, will take on Southland and Southern Lakes in Queenstown this weekend.

The side plays Southland on Saturday and will face a stern examination from an experienced Lakes men's line-up on Sunday.

However, Otago has been boosted by the return of Nelson student Alex Low, who is being flown back from his holiday job in Auckland, and by Otago Indoor Open winner Janos Manyai, a Hungarian coach working out of Oamaru.

Manyai reached a position of eighth in his country before recurring shoulder injuries saw him turn to coaching. He showed in the recent tournament, where he beat Low in the final, that he will be more than competitive even against former professionals Lan Bale and Perry Crockett.

When you add the experienced Mark Milburn and Chris Bradley, both of whom played at senior national level, the young Otago lower order faces a stern task.

Lakes has national junior representative Miki Nobuzawa and the talented James Smith as backup, while Otago has youngsters Paddy Ou, Jong Kyu Kim and Carlos Reid.

Harry James, the Otago Open titleholder, and Oliver Reid, his McGlashan team-mate, have exams on Monday and are unavailable.

It will be up to the Otago women to take their share of rubbers and three of the successful national 16s teams event winners have been named. Sian English, Georgia Hume and Jessie Stevenson will be joined by Hanna English.

Hume and Sian English have plenty of outside tournament experience, and have been playing interclub tennis in Christchurch and Auckland, so should be match-ready. Hanna English has played a variety of sports at provincial level and is very fit, while Stevenson pushed Hume to three sets at the recent tournament.

The Lakes women's squad is also full of experience, but does not have as many stars as the men.

The Southland team has several handy players at the top of the order, but could struggle to get wins further down, and Otago has the advantage of playing it in the afternoon, following its morning fixture against Southern Lakes.

Points from the weekend will be added to the second round of the Southern League to be held in Dunedin in February.