Juniors behind Labour Day tournament surge

THE full house sign is all but pinned up at Wodonga Grass Courts ahead of the annual Labour Day long weekend tournament.

Almost 340 players have nominated for the event — an almost 170 per cent increase on last year.

Organisers say the increase is due to the inclusion of junior age divisions, which for the first time will attract national ranking points.

Yesterday 63 men and 47 women had already entered the open singles draw.

Wodonga tennis spokesman Michael Robin said organisers were overwhelmed by the numbers.

“It started as a family event but three years ago we turned the open tournament into a nationally-ranked points competition,” he said.

“We were a little nervous about doing the same with the juniors but this year the under-12, under-14 and under-16 are all rated silver events in the national calendar, only a tier down from the highest event a club can hold.

“The gamble has certainly paid off — we are just about at capacity.

“Last year we had 202 players, we already have 340 and are still counting.”

Robin said the tournament was unique with graded events as well as a special doubles competition for parents and their children.

“As well as the ranking points events there are also A, B, C and D grades in singles and doubles,” he said.

“And there’s a doubles competition that allows parents to play with their kids.

“A couple of years ago we had tennis legend John Fitzgerald and his son Patrick playing.

“The parents are here with the kids and just throw their own racket in the car.”

Robin admitted the increase in numbers would require a tight schedule.

“We will need all 30 grasscourts and eight synthetic surfaces to get through the matches,” he said.

“But the national ranking point events all have to be played on grass.

“The way we have structured it nearly everyone is assured four or five games over the weekend.”

Play begins at 8am on Saturday with the final expected to be played about lunchtime on Monday.