Wanganui's up-and-coming tennis stars will have an opportunity to gain experience and test their skills when they take on a powerful Taranaki team in New Plymouth tomorrow in their annual junior rep fixture.
The team is a mix of experienced players and promising debutants who have come out of the woodwork - the top four boys and top four girls in each age group are selected based off the challenge ladder.
All of the players will have a singles match, a doubles, and a mixed doubles. There are three debutants in the 10s age group - Rehimana Neihana, Thomas Illiffe, and Hannah Kemenader.
They will be supported by Zach Farmer, Ben Strang and Patrick Hourigan in the boys, along with Tessa Strang, Basia Sosnowska, and Aleesha Duxfield in the girls.
In the girls 12-and-under age group Piata Turia, Bethany Farmer and Henrietta Carpenter are all making their representative debut for Wanganui and will be headed by Waverley's Jane Lennox.
The tough 12s boys' line-up of Sam Russell, Beau-Hourigan, Adam Millward, and Zane Puklowski should be in with a good chance.
In the 14s boys' age, Sean Gudsell makes his representative debut and will be guided by veterans Brad Wallis, Vitek Sosnowski, and Jack Pilet.
Likewise the girls have a wealth of experience and should be too strong for Taranaki.
Highly ranked Gabrielle Hiri and Paris Butters headline the team and are joined by Christy Thompson and Kyla Pearce, who is playing up an age group.
In a very strong 16s boys' team Kyle Butters will travel from Wellington to play for his home town, guaranteeing a tough day at the office for the unsuspecting Taranaki No1 Beauden Fleming. Tim McKenzie, who recently earned a spot in the senior men's team to play for the Christie Cup next week, is not a bad man to have as the number 2.
They will be backed up strongly by Phillip Sanders and Ben Pilet.
In the 16s girls, Dana Hiri spearheads the team and will be ably supported by Libby Twiss, Kate Russell and Georgia Millward.
Just as our local season sparks into life the professional season drew to a close. At the year ending indoor tournament where only the top eight players are invited seven countries were represented by a Swiss, two Serbians, a Scot, a Spaniard, an Argentinian, a Czech, and a Frenchman. That illustrates the strength of European tennis and also how diverse the tennis playing population is.
Those are tennis-playing countries and have much larger tennis-playing populations.
They are tennis factories much like how New Zealand is a rugby factory.
It is simple stats and probability that one in every 1000 will crack the big time. However, what New Zealand does have in its favour is talented kids. Because of our sporting culture Kiwi kids especially in provincial areas generally develop good natural co-ordination.
That translates to the tennis court and I see lots of young kids come to the club that have never picked up a racquet before come down and, remarkably, can begin to rally the ball back and forth over the net.
Wanganui has the skilled kids, the best facility, now we have the best coach.
The presence of a new world-class coach Victor Romero has created a buzz among the players, with many signing up for extra lessons to learn from Romero, who had many wins on the ATP Tour, and played and coached Davis Cup for Mexico. Junior and senior memberships have increased and the courts are used every day, especially on Wednesday afternoon with swarms of primary school players of all levels congregating for coaching and activities at the Wanganui Tennis Club.
Wanganui Tennis has been humming a new tune this year and all the signs show that it is coming through town like a freight train.
Who will be the next Hourigan, Hayman, Butters, or Romero?