Century of local tennis

THREE of the biggest names in Australian tennis will attend the Albury Easter Open’s 100th anniversary dinner at the Commercial Club next month.

Dianne Balestrat, Allan Stone and Rex Hartwig will be among more than 100 guests travelling from as far away as Sydney, Wagga, West Wyalong and Nowra.

Nine members of Jack Crawford’s extended family have indicated they will be attending.

The first Easter tournament was played in 1910 with men’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles contested.

Ladies doubles was introduced the following year with the singles in 1915.

The tournament was suspended for two years due to World War I before play resumed at Parish courts around Albury.

The tournament grew through the 1920s before tapering off during the 1930s.

The surface of choice by the best players was grass, so in 1933 the tournament was played at the Albury Sportsground, under the direction of Botanic Gardens curator Mr Fellowes.

A presentation ball was held on the Monday night with 400 people attending at St Patrick’s Hall.

War again intervened with play suspended in 1942.

Kendall’s courts were opened in Wodonga Place about 1940 and after the war they were used for the tournament.

During the 100 years, the tournament has seen some of Australia’s best players compete.

In the 1920s, Davis Cup representative Fred Kalms, from Jindera, was victorious seven times.

Local player Jimmy Matthews was victorious on five occasions during the 1940s while in the 1950s Culcairn born Rex Hartwig, Neale Fraser, Lew Hoad, Ashley Cooper, Ken McGregor, Roy Emerson, Allan Stone and Albury’s Bob Mark played their part.

Other big names to have played in Albury, including at exhibition matches are Ken Rosewall, Frank Sedgeman and local product Crawford.

The latter groups all represented Australia in Davis Cup.

The Wurtz brothers won the open title 15 times between them.

Other locals to have being successful include Darrell Mark, Ray Black, Jim Matthews, Merv Lord and Neil Smith.

In the ladies, big names to have played include Evonne Goolagong, Balestrat, Janet Young and Kerrie Melville.

Culcairn’s Miss D. Schultz won three ladies singles titles in the 1930s, Albury player Joan Barker won four times from the mid 1950s to mid 1960s and Margaret Court was successful four times.

Other locals to succeed include Wendy Thomas, Sharon Hodgkin, Leonie Irvine, Mandy Gebert, Kate McDonald (Hargreaves), Michelle Schilg, Sonia Withers, Brenda Foster and Alison Tinworth.

Bookings for the dinner close on April 10.