Young tennis talents to play in Ballarat tournament

AUSTRALIA’S rising young tennis stars will play in a new semi-professional tournament in Ballarat next month.

The Ballarat AMT Gold Pro Tournament at the Ballarat Regional Tennis Centre on December 20-23 will be the most prestigious tournament in the city in more than two decades.

Australian representative Zoe Hives will fly the hometown flag in the event, which will carry $7500 in prizemoney and is expected to attract 150 to 200 players from across the nation.

Tasmanian teenager Harry Bourchier, who has also worn Australian colours internationally, will be a leading contender in the men’s championship.

Men’s and women’s singles and doubles titles will be on the line.

Tennis Australia introduced “Australian Money Tournaments” in 2006 to create quality opportunities for players progressing from junior ranks.

Based on prizemoney, gold events are the second highest in the five-tier circuit, which this year features 186 tournaments.

Hives, 16, who took centre stage at yesterday’s launch of the event, said it would be exciting to play a tournament of this calibre at home.

Hives was the star of Australia’s campaign in the Junior Fed Cup in Spain earlier this year.

She is not long home from South Korea and Japan, where she reached the last 16 in two ITF singles events.

The Kingston youngster will now prepare for the national 18/under championships, which lead into the Ballarat event.

Her main objective next year is to play in the four major junior championships, beginning with the Australian Open into which she hopes to gain a wildcard.

Ballarat Regional Tennis Centre’s Rob Benoit said getting the AMT Gold Pro tournament was a major boost for the sport in Ballarat.

He said hopefully it was the first step towards getting a pro tour event.

The tournament will feature a main draw of 24, including eight players who will progress through qualifying matches.