A leading Border tennis coach believes Albury-Wodonga may have missed a real chance to host a future Davis Cup tie after the forced withdrawal of a decorated player from this week's Margaret Court Cup.
Todd Woodbridge, a 16-time grand slam champion who is considered Australia's greatest doubles player of the open era, had entered the Margaret Court Cup to start at the Albury grasscourts on Friday, but had to pull out because he resides in Melbourne and isn't permitted to enter NSW due to rules around the Victoria-NSW border closure.
Margaret Court Tennis Academy head coach and tournament director Phil Shanahan believes if Woodbridge had played in the event he would have been able to share his experience on the Border with Tennis Australia and the excellent work of Wimbledon curator Shayne Ried.
"I think Todd needed to come up and see the quality of the centres here because it gives Tennis Australia a bit of an idea of what's happening up here," Shanahan said.
"That was probably my biggest disappointment.
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"He could be in a boardroom deciding where the next Davis Cup tie should go and could have said 'let's go to Albury-Wodonga' because he's played on the courts and thought they were phenomenal.
"You don't get those opportunities too often."
Woodbridge won nine Wimbledon titles and played on courts prepared by Ried during his decorated career.
The border closure also denied a further 55 players from outside the border bubble in Victoria a chance to play in the Albury tournament.
It means the normally 400-strong event will welcome only 183 players in 2021.
"We built the tournament up to 408 players last year and to go down to 183 is still a healthy tournament, but it's a bit disappointing," Shanahan said.
"In the men's open we've still got 80 in the field, so we'll take a few days to get through that.
"But we started this tournament for the kids and all the kids around NSW are very excited to be playing in their first big tournament, so it's very exciting for them."
In a further blow for the event, NSW-based professionals Jordan Thompson and Chris O'Connell were set to prepare for the Australian Open in February with a 14-day training camp on the Border, but have also been stopped by the closure.
"I thought it was a great opportunity for them to get out of Homebush or Melbourne Park each year and come to Albury-Wodonga to train," Shanahan said.
"Everything was lining up until the border shut down.
"I booked two suites for the Tennis Australia guys in Albury and the next day they had to cancel."
Despite the challenges, Shanahan is confident of a strong showing from the Border's rising stars.
"They haven't had a lot of match play, but it's going to give the country kids a real opportunity to gain some national points," he said.
"All those top kids internationally won't be here, so it gives our country kids a real opportunity."
The tournament will be opened tomorrow by Nill Kyrgios, the mother of Nick, with the teams event to follow before round one matches commence on Friday.