Top talent to serve up long weekend of action
TENNIS: After losing the entire tournament last year to wet weather, Grafton City Tennis Club will hit back on the courts in bigger and better fashion this weekend.
The club will host a field overflowing with talent for the weekend's Silver AMT North Coast Tennis Championships that serve into action this morning.
A sponsorship deal with Regional Express airlines has assisted the club in luring some highly ranked tennis players from around the country.
More than 50 players will line up in the men's singles led by top-seeded professional Gavin van Peperzeel, who is ranked 33 in Australia.
Grafton's own Jacob Sullivan (ranked 107 in Australia) will head into the tournament as the fourth seed as he aims to break into the top 100 male players in Australia off the back of the tournament.
But it is an unseeded star out of Caloundra that GCTC president Ayesha Beckman has tipped as a hot chance.
"Vinnie Giufre got in contact with us to be the wildcard entry into the main draw,” she said. "He has had plenty of good results in the past but has not played in a lot of tournaments of late.
"He does have the results on the board though, so he could be a darkhorse of the draw.”
In the women's singles draw, the door has been blown open for the competition after number one seed Megan Smith was forced to withdraw at the eleventh hour.
Former four-time champion Britt Huxley will also not be available for the tournament as she arrives in from the United States today.
It has left a clear path to the top for the number two seed, 17-year-old Queenslander Tiana Windbuchler, who is competing in her first North Coast championships.
Windbuchler is currently no. 75 in Australia and is coming off a run of international qualifiers around Australia.
But she will have to contend with a special guest inclusion in the form of Sydney's Tyra Calderwood. A former junior champion, Calderwood trained under Grafton club coach Phil Beckman during her run as a professional.
"She once made a semi-final at junior Wimbledon about a decade ago,” Beckman said. "She might only be ranked 88 in Australia at the moment, but she is much better than that ranking suggests.”
Grafton's brightest hopes in the women's draw come in the form of Tianna McGarvie (sixth seed) and Olivia Blanch (ninth seed) as well as Bonnie Moon who will return from university in Newcastle for the tournament.
There will be more than $7500 in prize money up for grabs across the singles and doubles draw this weekend.