Youngster learns much from tournament

CLAY WILSON
Last updated 07:15 20/12/2012

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She did not win any of her four matches, but rising Marlborough tennis star Lily O'Fagan got valuable hitting against older and stronger players when she took part in the 18 and under New Zealand junior championships which ended in North Harbour on Tuesday.

Still only 14, O'Fagan attended the event as part of her buildup to her target event this season, the 14 and under nationals in Auckland at the start of next month.

Marlborough's No 1 female player drew 17 year-old Laura Isbey, of Auckland, in round one of the singles on Friday. O'Fagan eventually lost, 6-3, 6-4, but not without a superb fight against the higher ranked Isbey. The match lasted just one minute short of three hours and was the longest girls' match of the day.

That result put O'Fagan into the second round of the consolation plate on Saturday where she drew Northern region player Trixie Croad. The Marlborough teen got off to an outstanding start, winning the first set 6-0. However, that sparked her older and high-ranked opponent into life and after levelling the match by taking the second set, 6-2, Croad went on to win by narrowly taking the third set super-tiebreak, 10-8.

O'Fagan teamed with Croad in the doubles and the duo went down, 6-0, 6-0, to second seeds Sade Atkinson and Bridget Lidell in round one on Saturday. Moving through to the plate on Sunday, O'Fagan and Croad fared better in their second and last match, beaten, 6-3, 7-5, by Lauren Tyler-Harwood and Beth Williamson.

O'Fagan's father, Paul, said Lily's attendance at the 18 and under tournament had proved worthwhile and felt the signs were positive ahead of the 14 and under nationals. At that event, O'Fagan is likely to be seeded anywhere from 2nd-6th in the singles and 2nd or 3rd in the doubles with partner Chanistha Ampornachariya, who reached the 18 and under singles semifinals.

Wanganui's Paige Hourigan defended her title and justified her top seeding by beating the sixth seed, Waikato's Ella Hassall, 6-2, 6-2, in the 18 and under girls' final. In the boys' singles, Canterbury's Connor Heap upset Wanganui's Kyle Butters, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.

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- The Marlborough Express

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