Hourigan wins wildcard after narrow title defeat

By Jared Smith

She just missed her crown but Wanganui's teenaged tennis sensation is still going to the big dance.

Paige Hourigan came agonisingly close to winning the women's title at the New Zealand Championships in Albany yesterday, going down in a third-set thriller with seventh seed Imogen Golder, who attends Purdue University in Indiana.

The 15-year-old took the first set 6-4, before going off the rails to drop the second 6-0.

She recovered in the third set against the 20-year-old Golder, leading at one point 5-3 before succumbing 7-6 in a tiebreak.

Mother Tracy Hourigan said her daughter got six to seven matchpoints, but could not convert.

But Hourigan has still achieved her dream, with ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge deciding to award Golder and Hourigan a wildcard entry into January's tournament.

"She was so lucky, the director of the ASB classic came and watched her play and he loved her," said Tracy Hourigan.

"He came up to us and said, 'no, she's getting one'."

The performance caps a fantastic seven days for Hourigan, who successfully defended her national junior title mid-week.

In the quarter-finals of the New Zealand Championships on Friday, Hourigan beat Auckland's Abigail Guthrie, also back from an American scholarship, in nearly three hours, 5-7 6-4 6-0.

She then took on top seed Di Hollands in the Saturday semifinals and won another tough three-setter, 3-6 6-4 6-4, needing four matchpoints to put the game away.

Golder overcame fellow Wanganui standout Emma Hayman in the quarter-finals, 7-6 6-3. However, Hayman rebounded by teaming with Guthrie to win the women's doubles title.

After a bye in the first round, the pair won four straight games, beating Luci Barlow and Tracey O'Connor in a three-set final.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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