Packham wins 23rd Ballarat singles title

STEPHEN Packham has won his 23rd Ballarat Open Singles title.

The 56-year-old staged a remarkable comeback to win at the Ballarat Regional Tennis Centre on Sunday.

Packham was leading against 17-year-old Alister Stone 6-3 6-0, but Stone fought back and won 11 out of the next 12 games.

Stone took the second set, and then lead 5-0 in the third set before Packham showed champion qualities, storming back into the match and 6-3 4-6 7-6 in a three-hour marathon.

Packham had progressed to the final after defeating Jake Dunn 6-1 6-3 and Stone knocked off the number-one seed Ben Robinson in the semi-final 7-6 6-4. 

The champion claimed his first Ballarat open title in 1973 as a 17-year-old, and continued to take the title for 20 consecutive years until 1993 before he moved to Bendigo and then Melbourne. 

Tournament rules changed in 2005 allowing players who had competed in Ballarat and district competitions to compete. 

Packham won in 2005 and 2010 before taking the title this year. 

Tournament director Robert Benoit came runner-up to Packham in 16 of his 20 consecutive titles. 

He said if Packham remained in Ballarat it would have been safe to assume he would have won the open championship at least 30 times.

“He would have probably made an Australia record,” Benoit said. 

Ashleigh Joliffe won the ladies’ open singles championship.

The 18-year-old defeated 14-year-old Hannah Heath 6-0 6-0 in the final. 

Joliffe has performed well this season, playing as the number two player in open federation competition, and will compete in the Ballarat AMT Gold later this month.

nicole.cairns@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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