Tennis is almost always postponed when it rains.

It's hard to see the ball among the water droplets.

Clothes and shoes get soaked, and it's more difficult to run in.

If you do manage to hit the ball without slipping over, you're sprayed with water smacked out of the soggy yellow sphere.

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Plus, it's heavier and less bouncy, so it takes much more effort to get it over the net.

However, none of this was going to stop the Aotearoa Māori Tennis Championship finals on Saturday.

The three-day tournament drew players from New Zealand, Australia and the United States, from tamariki under 10 to kaumātua over 80.

The Rotorua Tennis Club pavilion had a constant chorus of "good lucks", "ka pais", and "kia kahas".

Jasmine Waerea performs at the tournament pōwhiri. Photo / Annie Hawaikirangi
Jasmine Waerea performs at the tournament pōwhiri. Photo / Annie Hawaikirangi

The weather had been mostly fine, until 6mm of rain fell between 6am and 12pm on Saturday.

Māori Tennis president Dick Garratt said the hotly contested finals went ahead because of the tournament kaupapa, "to put aside trials and tribulations and have fun on the courts".

He said he was "very pleased" with the event in Rotorua this year, a city he described as a "stronghold for Māori".

Nicole Douglas performs at the tournament pōwhiri. Photo / Annie Hawaikirangi
Nicole Douglas performs at the tournament pōwhiri. Photo / Annie Hawaikirangi

Garratt and the organising committees had been preparing since June.

The tournament was founded in Rotorua in 1926, by Sir Apirana Ngata and his friends Taipōrutu Mitchell, Pei Te Hurinui Jones and Tukere Te Anga.

It is now one of the longest established Māori sports events in the country.

"The wairua of the tournament goes back to the founders, who wanted our people to care for their hauora. The sporting aspect, the spiritual, social, it's all present here," Garratt said.

Rotorua hadn't hosted the tournament for 23 years, until last week.

Men's doubles finalists from left, Jesse Galvin, Logan Nathan, Shaun Tamai and Shannon Paki with his daughters Fern and Indie. Photo / Annie Hawaikirangi
Men's doubles finalists from left, Jesse Galvin, Logan Nathan, Shaun Tamai and Shannon Paki with his daughters Fern and Indie. Photo / Annie Hawaikirangi

In the past few years, it has drawn 125-150, but organisers are keen to boost numbers next year when Rotorua will host the tournament again.

This year's top seed was 37-year-old Rotorua player Shaun Tamai.

He grew up playing in the tournament, but then took a 14-year break from tennis, until picking up a racquet again three years ago.

"It's a bit like riding a bike, it's just a matter of getting your fitness back up and getting back on," he told the Rotorua Daily Post.

He said the support playing at home was "bloody brilliant".

Tamai was even sponsored by Three Dukes Homes, a Rotorua company that also sponsored the tournament.

Lamen Hohaia, another member of the Rotorua Tennis Club, played in the tournament for the first time.

The former rugby player took up tennis 10 years ago, and came across "lots of other ex-players at the tournament".

"They're just as competitive in their life after rugby," he said with a laugh.

Aotearoa Māori Tennis kaumatua Sir Tamati Reedy, a great-grandnephew of Ngata's, completed another annual trip to watch the tournament.

"I just love seeing the young ones coming through. Some of them grow to play overseas and we follow their progress."

He said his prolonged involvement in the tournament was all part of "following ancestors' footsteps".

Results

Kalais d'Going - Open women's singles winner

Dana Gray - Open women's singles runner-up

Jesse Galvin - Open men's singles winner

Shaun Tamai - Open men's singles runner-up

Luci Barlow and Shaun Tamai - Mixed doubles winners

Kalais d'Going and Shannon Paki- Mixed doubles runners-up