Hawke's Bay tennis player Mansi Giri made up for lost court time at national level during the province's Junior Open which ended yesterday.
Greendale's Giri, 11, who just finished her final year at Taradale Primary School, won the Hawke's Bay Primary Schoolgirls title with an unbeaten run in four matches in November before going to the Waikato Bays Regional finals in Hamilton where she was also unbeaten on the path to title honours. New Zealand's No 2 ranked under-10 player last summer, Giri, didn't attend the National Primary Schools tournament earlier this month because of a lack of funds after the Waikato trip.
"It was a shame I couldn't go but I've had plenty of tennis during the last four days which made up for missing that one," Giri said as she reflected on her campaign at Tennis Eastern's Tier 3 Kennedy Park Resort Hawke's Bay Junior Open.
Giri, who has only been playing tennis for two years and two months, competed in the under-12 and under-14 age groups. She finished fourth in the under-14 singles after losing 6-3, 6-all (8-6) to top seed Abby Ross of Taranaki in her semifinal.
In the under-14 doubles final Giri and her Greendale clubmate Penelope Forster, the second seeds, were beaten 6-0, 6-2 by their Greendale clubmates and top seeds India Apatu and Alex Cave. Giri beat Forster 6-2, 6-1 in her under-12 singles final after earlier eliminating the top seed Sophie Webber of Taupo 6-4, 6-4 in her semifinal, a clash which lasted one hour and 34 minutes.
"Sophie was a big scalp for me. She is two grades higher and 320 points ahead of me on the national grading list," Giri explained.
In the under-12 doubles final Giri and Central Hawke's Bay's Emma Baker, the second seeds, were beaten 4-2, 4-1 by the top seeded combination Apatu and Forster.
"I'm lucky to have so many people supporting me ... friends, schoolmates, my principal [Hawke's Bay premier club rugby referee Marty Hantz] who always found time to have a hit with me when I needed one, Mum and Dad and of course my coaches," Giri said referring to experienced Greendale professional Luke Donovan and his assistant Jac Wardrope.
"I've still got plenty of work ons if I am going to achieve my long-term goal of becoming a professional player," Giri said.
"I'm working on becoming more familiar with some new grips which will give me more spin and power. I'm also working on getting more spin on my second serve."
Considering her family's late introduction to the sport Giri can be proud of the progress she has made. Her father Suni, who hails from India, outlined the family's tennis intro when Giri and 8-year-old brother Mayank played in their first Hawke's Bay Junior Open last year.
"They only took tennis up because we live near the Greendale courts and happened to walk past the courts one day. Mansi liked what she saw and told us she wanted to take it up and so did Mayank. There are no courts back home where I'm from and I had never played before. I'm more into chess and cricket, and Pupsa [his wife who is from Nepal] played volleyball."
Tennis Eastern development officer Sean Davies remembers how he first came across the family.
"Some Greendale club members told me that shortly after the family joined the club their mother took them to the courts every day and threw balls to them for three hours as part of their training schedules. Their dedication was amazing."
A highlight of this season's open was what one of the organisers, Sarah Shand, described as "an unofficial test match" between Australia and New Zealand which involved eight under-16 boys doubles matches. The Kiwis took it out.
The four-day event attracted 148 players including 25 from Australia and two from Samoa. Before yesterday afternoon's games 412 matches had been played over 1800 minutes.
These matches had produced 5730 games and 790 sets.