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The 5th Distinction Te Anau Hotels Te Anau Tennis Invitational featured eight of New Zealand's top male tennis players.
Rubin Statham, Finn Tearney, Rhett Purcell, Finn Reynolds, Riki McLachlan, Rob Reynolds, Wesley Whitehouse and Ajeet Rai all took part, with prize money at $20,500 - $8000 to the winner at the two-day tournament (28/29 December 2017) played in brilliant weather. The tournament was attended by one of the biggest crowds seen at the event over the last four years.
Wellington’s Finn Tearney met New Zealand’s No 1 Rubin Statham in the final of the Te Anau Invitational. Runner-up Finn had to settle for $5000 after losing the final to Statham, who dominated the third set to see out the match 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 and defend his title. It was Rubin’s third Te Anau Tennis Invitational crown with wins in 2014 and 2016.
The finale of the all-Kiwi tournament was looking like one-way traffic as Statham ran away with the first set and took control of the second.
However, Tearney refused to roll over and, he clawed his way back to force a decider.
He could not maintain the momentum, though, as Statham found his second wind.
It was quite a performance from Statham considering the form Tearney had shown in recent weeks.
Tearney won both the national title and Wellington Open and carried that form with him into the day one in Te Anau as he cruised past Riki McLachlan and Wesley Whitehouse to reach the final. It was Tearney’s fourth time runner-up in the tournament in Te Anau, Whitehouse, meanwhile, to settle for fourth as he lost the third-place playoff to Rhett Purcell 6-2, 7-5.
Ajeet Rai held his nerve in a third-set tiebreak against Rob Reynolds to finish fifth with a 2-6, 6-4, 10-7 victory, while Finn Reynolds beat Riki McLachlan 6-4, 6-3 in the battle for seventh and eighth.
With $20,000 of prizemoney up for grab, it is the country's third richest tournament, behind the men's and women's ASB Classics.
The tournament keeps interest in the sport ahead of the two big international tournaments in Auckland over next fortnight.
The second day featured an exhibition doubles match between 10 times Grand Slam champion Cara Black of Zimbabwe who partnered Whitehouse against Marcus Daniell and Queenstown-based coach Lan Bale. Black has been ranked as the World No.1 women's doubles player. She was convinced to come to Te Anau by Queenstown-based tennis coach Lan Bale. The South African-born coach and former World No.27 ranked doubles player won his first career title with Cara Black's brother Byron in South Africa in 1993.
A relaxed and casual atmosphere, the players and the spectators enjoy this experience. Te Anau Tennis Invitational a unique event for the small lakeside town of 2000 residents, with Te Anau Tennis Club now over 100 members, 90 of those are junior players.
Money raised from the Te Anau Tennis Invitational goes back into the sport in the town.
The junior players receive subsidised coaching, which has helped to boost the number of club members. Te Anau’s full time professional tennis coach Danny Baleson from South Africa, his second season with the club is assisted by two other coaches, 25 year old Lois Tournier from Annecy in France and India-born American Jay Patel who are based in Te Anau, helping 450 tennis players throughout Southland.
The local tennis community helps the event to run smoothly including catering for the corporate facilities on offer during the two-day event.
- By Julie Walls