Talented Hawke's Bay sportswoman Olivia Addis hadn't played tennis for six years before picking up her racket again in November after returning home from tertiary studies in Wellington.
"I started hitting with Cathy [Havelock North clubmate Clarkson] and I realised how much I missed it. I've virtually been on the court every day since," 21-year-old Addis recalled.
Hawke's Bay senior rep team co-captains Luke Donovan and Jane Wyllie heard Addis was back in action and reached out to her. On Saturday Addis will make her Christie Cup debut when the Bay host Taranaki at Greendale in their first defence of the symbol of Central Districts tennis supremacy for the season after beating Manawatu by default last weekend.
She will have the No 2 singles role, the top doubles slot with No 1 Alex Cave of the Greendale club and mixed doubles combinations will be decided after singles and doubles play.
"Tennis is so much stronger now in the Bay than when I stopped playing in my early teens. I'm not sure if it's just the coaching but there is a lot more depth and everyone is pushing one another," Addis explained.
"Tennis Eastern have good development programmes for the young ones. Sean [Tennis Eastern development officer Davies] is doing a great job and clubs are placing a big emphasis on their junior squads. Clubs realise it's hard to make it as a professional player in New Zealand and they are putting systems in place to try and make it easier for players who want to follow that path."
Right hander Addis took up tennis as a five-year-old and is a product of then Havelock North club coach and 1993 senior club champion Bob Christensen's Pee Wee Tennis Programme. As an 11-year-old in 2010 Addis beat club stalwart Jan Day in their club's open women's singles championship final.
The following year Addis finished fourth in the national under-12 singles. Before calling it quits to focus on other sports the former Havelock North High School student won several age group singles titles in the annual Hawke's Bay Junior Open tournament.
That background will come in handy when Hawke's Bay hosts Taranaki, the side they took the cup off in January last year. This was the first time Hawke's Bay had won the cup since the 2004-05 season.
"Obviously I've been out of the game for a while now and don't know too much about the Taranaki players. But I'm confident we've got a team capable of retaining the cup. Luke has done a good job preparing the men and Jane [who won't be available this weekend because of national senior tournament commitments] the women," Addis said.
Earlier this month Addis, who is a former representative cricketer, netballer and volleyballer, and Wyllie won the doubles title at the Manawatu Open.
"It's a shame Manawatu couldn't front last weekend. It has made us all a bit more eager to get out on the court this weekend."
Addis will also be available for the Bay's away fixture against Whanganui on February 16 and intends to return from her study commitments for the Hawke's Bay Residential events in April and May. Next month she will begin her fourth year of a five-year Law and Commerce degree in which she is majoring in Economics and Finance.
Once her studies are completed Addis intends to travel but her long-term plan is to return to the Bay to work which will be good news for the likes of Donovan and Wyllie. For the last two months she has been doing orchard work in between her tennis trainings.
"That physical labour helps my tennis and it's good to get out in the fresh air after my study commitments prevent me from playing down in Wellington," she added.
Former long-serving No 1 man Donovan agreed this weekend's host side is the strongest named in the province's tennis history.
"To have former New Zealand Davis Cup squad member and former Kiwi No 1 Dan Willman at No 3 and myself down in the No 5 or No 6 slot I'm happy with that," Donovan said.
Former Auckland premier interclub player Rudy Statkus recently arrived in the Bay and will play No 3 behind Rob Reynolds and Dan Rowe who both played in the national championships before Christmas.
"While the men's line-up is definitely the strongest ever for the Bay our women's side would be close to it as well and that's a tribute to how strong tennis in the Bay has come," Donovan added.
The Hawke's Bay squad for the 9am fixture is:
Men: Rob Reynolds, Dan Rowe, Rudy Statkus, Dan Willman, Rynold Timothy, Luke Donovan, Jacob Verhoeven.
Women: Alex Cave, Olivia Addis, Sophie Ward, Sophia Nash, Samantha Cave, Abby Oliver, Stacey Margerison