In his younger days Hawke's Bay tennis representative Alby Hailes was a more than handy cook.

Hailes was the creator of the Scarfie Kitchen website while at Otago University. These days Hailes, 24, is earning a reputation as a bloke who can deliver wins for Christie Cup holders Hawke's Bay despite limited preparation.

All the necessary ingredients are there thanks to plenty of court time during his teenage years. That's his base, to use another cooking reference.

"Because of work commitments I don't play as often as I would like. But the rep selectors know what they are going to get when they call me up," Hailes said during the countdown to the Bay's away defence of the cup - the symbol of Central Districts tennis supremacy - against Whanganui tomorrow.

Advertisement

A Hawke's Bay District Health Board doctor, Hailes switches between the Hastings Health Centre and Hawke's Bay Hospital. When he is at the centre he gets enough matchplay but at the hospital when 10 consecutive 16-hour day stints are the norm, tennis has to be put on hold.

The Greendale club player, who is in his second season in the Hawke's Bay team, was in the side which took the cup off Taranaki in New Plymouth in January last year. This was the first time Hawke's Bay had won a cup challenge since the 2004-05 season.

Hailes missed last month's defence, a 21-3 drubbing of Taranaki at his club, as he was on holiday.

With former Auckland premier interclub player Rudy Statkus unavailable for tomorrow's fixture with a knee injury, Hailes was the logical replacement. He admitted to knowing little about tomorrow's opponents.

"I just go out and do my best whoever we are up against. I'm very competitive so I tend to back myself," Hailes said.

With tremendous fitness levels, speed and agility as well as a backhand which is stronger than his forehand, Hailes will be hard to beat in the No 5 singles spot tomorrow. He is thrilled to be part of the strongest period in Hawke's Bay tennis history.

"It's great to have Rob [No 1 man Reynolds available] and with all the coaches around we have a lot of depth."

Hailes was referring to the likes of co-captain Luke Donovan, the long-serving professional coach at Greendale, the Hastings club's professional coach Craig Giddy and Havelock North-based former Kiwi No 1 Dan Willman, who are all in the Bay side for tomorrow.

Advertisement

An old boy of St Kevin's College in Oamaru, Hailes won the Marlborough Residentials title in 2017 when he was based in Blenheim for a year. Earlier in his career he finished among the top 10 at the under-14 nationals.

When he was in this age group Hailes played against Cameron Norrie, who has since gone on to represent Great Britain at Davis Cup level.

"I was lucky back in those days to be able to have regular hits with Mum [Sarah] and Dad [Danny] and they prepared me well for age group tournaments as we often lived in smaller places where there wasn't a lot of competition for me," Hailes recalled.

While he regularly moved around with his family as a youngster, Hailes knows there is potential for him to leave the Bay with his work, particularly if he needs to train in a specialist field.

"If that happens it will be hard to leave the Bay as it is a nice place to live," he added.

Donovan moves up the order to the No 3 singles role as Dan Rowe is unavailable tomorrow. Multiple national seniors champion Giddy, who missed the fixture against Taranaki because of national seniors tournament duty, replaces Jacob Verhoeven and will be used in the doubles and mixed doubles fixtures.

The only change to the Hawke's Bay women's line-up sees promising Greendale junior Roisin Dinan replace Hawke's Bay Lawn's Sophia Nash, who is in Christchurch for tertiary studies.

Whanganui won't be as strong as they have been in the past. Six regulars are unavailable and the likes of Paige Hourigan, Leela Beattie, Paris Butters, Karen Cranston, Emma Hayman, Victor Romero, Simon O'Leary and Patrice Mahey have moved on.

The hosts' No 1 man Kyle Butters, like Reynolds, has had experience in the United States university system and their clash should be a cracker. Butters is also Whanganui's head coach as their No 2 man and former Manawatu representative Jono Spring has stepped down from the role for personal reasons.

Butters is hoping to field some powerful doubles combinations and will sacrifice some games by not pairing stronger players with weaker ones. The visitors should be able to win by 18-6 at least.

Teams:
Hawke's Bay:
Men: Rob Reynolds, Rynold Timothy, Luke Donovan, Dan Willman, Alby Hailes, Jonathan Fall, Craig Giddy.
Women: Alex Cave, Olivia Addis, Samantha Cave, Abby Oliver, Roisin Dinan, Stacey Margerison, Sophie Ward.
Whanganui:
Men: Kyle Butters, Jono Spring, Nicky Caton, Sasha Milentijivic-Vague, Jack Prenter, Sam Butters.
Women: Ngakuira Osborne, Noel Simmons, Rachel Cronin, Dale Turner, Kate Davey, Paula Fore.