Manaia's Cameron Koch will be out to turn the tables on Jono Hurley in the men's singles at the Taranaki Tennis Open starting in Hawera today.
Hurley, who returns from Sydney for the Real Sports-sponsored event, beat Koch in an epic three- set semifinal last year before winning the final.
Hurley, who used to live in Taranaki, is the No 1 seed for this year's tournament, with Koch the second seed. Koch has been in good form this season and is quite capable of reversing last year's result to pick up his first Taranaki Open singles title.
To get through to a finals matchup, however, both men will need to dispel the challenges of 12 other contenders, including Tony Loveday (Auckland), William Yip (Bay of Plenty), Tony Careswell (Waikato), Tim Low (Brisbane) and Badem Stevenson (Sydney).
Taranaki is further represented by Andrew Powell, David Geange, Mark Laurence and the Simpson brothers, Jaime and Brady.
Missing from the open men's singles draw will be five-times winner Frayne Bloor (formerly of Hawera). The Brisbane-based tennis coach has been suffering from a wrist injury for five months and although he will play in the doubles, he feels a return to singles play at this stage of his recovery will be "a bridge too far".
In the open women's singles, Manaia's Nicole Koch will be gunning for her fourth title in eight years. Chasing the defending champion are an all-Taranaki affair of Maree Gopperth, Frances Gray, Alice Caskey and Sophie Robertson. Koch could almost certainly have racked up more victories over the past five years but hasn't always been available.
The Taranaki pairing of Cameron Koch and defending doubles champion Mike Fleming (Pukekura Park) are the top seeds in the men's open doubles.
Fleming will be attempting to win his seventh open doubles title - the first of which he achieved before Koch was born.
No 2 seeds are Jono Hurley and Stevenson. Others with a definite chance to upset are Bloor and Low, and the Auckland pairing of Louis Friel and Loveday.
Top seeds in the women's doubles are Nicole Koch and Manawatu teenager Shenae Salisbury. They can expect strong opposition from the likes of Caskey and Gray.
New champions will be crowned in the open combined doubles event, since last year's winners are not defending their title. Heading the list are hot favourites, siblings Cameron and Nicole Koch, while the No 2 seeds are another Manaia pairing, father and daughter Grant and Maree Gopperth. Other leading Taranaki pairings are Andrew Powell and Amelia Weir (both Okaiawa), along with fellow rep player Alice Caskey (Huatoki) and her Waikato partner Tony Careswell.
The combined doubles is renowned for victories by unseeded combinations, but this year's contest appears straightforward.
Good-sized fields have entered for the age-group contests (10 to 18 years) and with the Taranaki Open being a leg of the Tennis Central points race, juniors from around the lower North Island have entered.
Twenty Australians add an international flavour to the tournament throughout both junior and adult ranks and will threaten to take away some of the silverware.
Play starts today with the 10, 14 and 18 years age-groups, followed by the 12s, 16s and adult age- groups tomorrow. Complementary events such as the B and social events are well supported and this tournament provides one of the few opportunities on the calendar where parents can team up with their children.
Play begins daily from 9am on the natural grass courts at the Hawera Lawn Tennis & Squash Club, with free entry to the public. If play is threatened by rain, the tournament may move indoors to the TSB Hub.
Open men's singles 1. Jono Hurley (Sydney), 2. Cameron Koch (Tara)
Open men's doubles 1. Fleming/Koch, 2. Hurley/ Stevenson (Aust)
Open women's singles 1. Nicole Koch (Tara), 2. Alice Caskey (Tara)
18 years boys 1. Thomas Burrell (Tara), 2. Haydn Hedges (Aust)
18 years girls 1. Alice Caskey (Tara), 2. Shenae Salisbury (Manawatu)
16 years boys 1. Hamish Mead (Tara), 2. Brady Simpson (Tara)
16 years girls 1. Shenae Salisbury (Manawatu), 2. Sophie Robertson (Tara)
14 years boys 1. Hamish Mead (Tara), 2. Logan Amey (Manawatu)
14 years girls 1. Shenae Salisbury (Manawatu), 2. Ellen O'Byrne (Tara)
12 years boys 1. Kurt Amey (Manawatu), 2. Filip Pavkovic (Well)
12 years girls 1. Hikaru Han (Tara), 2. Gemma Loveday (Auck)
10 years boys 1. James Loveday (Auck), 2. Jayden Harrison (Tara).
- Taranaki Daily News
Does more need to be done to protect NZ passports?