Tennis star's Starship gift

By Patrice Dougan

Abby, a 16 year old out patient of Starship Hospital talks with one of the stars of this years ASB Classic Tennis Open Monica Puig. Photo / Greg Bowker
Abby, a 16 year old out patient of Starship Hospital talks with one of the stars of this years ASB Classic Tennis Open Monica Puig. Photo / Greg Bowker

It was supposed to be a surprise, but the cat was already out of the bag - tennis fan Abby was about to receive free tickets to the ASB Tennis Classic.

The 16-year-old outpatient at Auckland's Starship Children's Hospital was forced to give up the sport just months after she discovered her talent for it when she became sick in May.

But this morning she dusted off her tennis racquet to meet one of the stars of the sport, Puerto Rican Monica Puig. A surprise of free tickets to one of the games on January 1 had already been let slip by the time the tennis ace presented them to the smiling teen.

A friendly and chatty Puig, who is ranked 44th in the world, signed Abby's tennis racquet and exchanged contact details, promising to secure extra tickets to one of her matches for the teen's family.

She also gave free tickets to Starship staff and presented the hospital with a cheque for more than $28,000 which ASB raised through a social media fundraising campaign.

Abby, who has a serious illness, has been unable to play and faces a summer forbidden from the water because of her ill health. She said the tickets would be a highlight of her Christmas and summer holidays, especially as she has never been to see a professional game.

The St Mary's College pupil, who has just passed her NCEAs with merit, said she would start following Puig's career after meeting her.

Puig she hoped she could provide "a little bit of hope" and "some joy and some positive attitude" to help make teens like Abby feel better.

"It's kind of sad to see and obviously a lot of these kids like sports, they like to be outside, and hopefully with the help of all the hard work you put in you can give something back," she said.

The ASB Classic runs from December 30 to January 4 in Auckland.

- APNZ

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