THE sixth Distinction Hotels Te Anau Tennis Invitational showcased some of New Zealand’s best tennis on December 28 and 29 at the town’s outdoor tennis arena.
The Invitational featured eight of New Zealand’s top male tennis players, Rubin Statham, Ajeet Rai, Finn Tearney, Wesley Whitehouse, Olly Sadler, James Meredith, Issac Becroft and Kiranpal Pannu, with prize money at $20,000, including $8000 to the winner.
Organiser Greg Sheppard said the success of previous tournaments meant the event had probably the strongest field in its six-year history, and attracted a large crowd.
New Zealand’s top-ranked player, Aucklander Rubin Statham, beat second-seed Ajeet Rai in a thrilling final, 6-3 4-6, 6-4.
Rai (18) has had a cracking year, which has seen his ATP World ranking drop to 695. In October he won his first ITF Futures title in Thailand and finished runner-up in the Wither Hills Westend Cup.
It was Statham’s fourth Te Anau Tennis Invitational crown with wins in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
He said the Invitational provided him with strong matches before competing in the New Caledonia ASB Classic in Auckland. Wellington’s Finn Tearney was forced to withdraw with injury from the match against Kiranpal Pannu, of Wellington, and was replaced by Te Anau tennis coach Sky Lovill, who lost to Isaac Becroft, 7-5, 7-5.
KP Pannu and Olly Sadler had a corker of a game to fight for third, with Pannu claiming the win.
Wesley Whitehouse’s big serve helped him beat James Meredith 6-4, 6-4, to claim fifth place.
Sky Sport commentator Stephen McIvor returned to MC the event and host the fundraising auction.
A special women’s singles match between Lulu Sun, of Switzerland, and Suzy Larkin, of Great Britain, was held on the Friday night, with Sun winning the match.
Te Anau was originally home to Tennis New Zealand chief executive Julie Paterson, who was watching the action to see the success of the tournament.
Paterson said the invitational was an opportunity for the south’s young tennis players to learn from some of the country’s best.
Money raised from the Invitational goes back into the sport in the town, with junior players receiving subsidised coaching from Danny Baleson, from South Africa, and Sky Lovill, from the United States.