He's set to strike some of the hottest young tennis players in the country but Tom Shallard isn't worried. Not at all.
Shallard, from Riversdale, will lead the Southland boys' team in the 12 years and under division in the southern districts mixed teams event against Otago, North Otago, Southern Lakes and South Canterbury in Invercargill this weekend.
Shallard is Southland's number one 12 years' boy for the three-day event, which also involves 10, 14 and 16 years and under teams, starting tomorrow.
The 12-year-old will carry a lot of responsibility because he is the top player and also the most experienced.
His aims are certainly not selfish and say a lot about him and how important he thinks playing for Southland should be to everyone.
"The first aim is for us to play well as a team," Shallard said.
"That's the main thing."
Shallard, of course, has individual goals and is determined to be at his best because he could come up against nationally-ranked juniors Harrison Darling (South Canterbury), Thomas Hartono (Otago) and Manawa Rakete-Shea (Southern Lakes).
"It'll be tough," Shallard said.
"But I love playing against those sort of players.
"You get to learn a lot from them, how they hit and play. It's good."
Shallard will at least go into the round-robin event in good nick, having easily won the Southland junior open 12s singles and doubles titles two weeks ago.
In the singles final he beat Otago's Zane Gray, the second seed, 6-0, 6-0, and then teamed up with Gray to easily win the doubles.
"It [singles title] was a good win. I served well.
"I'm starting to play with more consistency," he said.
Southland teams Southland 10, 12, 14 and 16 years tennis teams to play South Canterbury, Southern Lakes, Otago and North Otago in Invercargill this weekend are (teams in alphabetical order):
10s – boys: Sam Clark, Finn Holden, Nick Munro, Matthew Scully. Reserve: George Heenan. Girls: Harriet Cuttance, Pippa O'Connell, Claudia Smith, Emma White. Reserve: Bianca Popham.
12s – boys: Thomas Clark, Ben Clixby, Jordan Maher, Tom Shallard. Reserve: Ryan Watkins. Girls: Charlotte Hopcroft, Eden McIntosh, Ella Smith, Kimberley Heads. Reserve: Holly Munro.
14s – boys: Derek Bruin, Jimmy Johnson, Josh McDermott, Haydon McElligott. Reserve: Andrew Hood. Girls: Kim Allan, Alexandra Cochrane, Rachel Marshall, Zoe Smith. Reserve: Sarah Marshall.
16s – boys: Joshua Cochrane, Spencer McIntosh, Kelson Sadlier, Caleb Stevenson. Reserve: Luke Lemin. Girls: Sarah Allan, Emma Andrew , Kendall Kilpatrick, Fiona Macdonald.
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