ANDREW Noad has hailed rising tennis star and protege Megan Polkinghorne after the pair took out the mixed doubles title at the MIA Open over the long weekend in an all-Griffith final.
Noad and Polkinghorne overcame top seeds Blake Gregor and Maddison Gregor 9-4 in the decider at the Jack Shannon Tennis Complex to secure silverware on their home surface.
Still "ecstatic" after the win, Noad told The Area News that Polkinghorne who was the number one seed in the AMT Women's Singles but crashed out in the first round took great strides ahead at the MIA Open with improved decision making and maturity on the court.
"She very much held us together. She was very steady out there on the court," said Noad.
"The hard work's paying off for her as she learns to be more comfortable and relaxed. I'm looking forward to her doing even better and gaining even more confidence in tournaments to come.
"In singles she got caught against one of the eventual finalists in the first round, so she had a strong floater in the draw in Caitlin Staines, who ended up with a few match points in the final so this was a nice way to finish off her weekend.
"It's fantastic to have our names on one of the boards within the clubhouse amongst some illustrious company. It's something to remember, so we're both quite proud."
Noad said he was still surprised with the victory given he entered the MIA Open simply to "make up the numbers" and ended up toppling Griffith tennis export Blake Gregor, who shifted to the University of Southern Alabama last year to further his dream of professional tennis.
"He had a huge day of tennis and a long three-set match in the quarter-finals of the singles so we were probably fortunate that maybe he was a little tired not that he'd ever say that," Noad said.
"We're really excited to put in a good showing against both Blake and Maddison, who are very accomplished tennis players."
In the AMT Men's Singles, Gregor was seeded at number six but fell in his quarter-final to Aidan Fitzgerald in a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 marathon.
Albury's Brandon Vescio took out the final against another player from the border, last year's champion Jade Culph.
In a classic on Monday afternoon, Vescio - who mixed it with the likes of Bernard Tomic and James Duckworth in his teenage years before giving the game away - won 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.
Now 21, Vescio's comeback to the sport is full steam ahead according to leading tennis coach Phil Shanahan, who has just returned from the French Open.
Together with the Margaret Court Tennis Academy, his son Mark and biomechanist Nan Latta, Shanahan believes Vescio is now ready to hit the circuit again.
"He was ranked No.3 in Australia as a junior when he was 12 years old but he's been working hard in the last year or so. His ranking is back up to 107 here and now it's about to go up further," he said.
"The standard of tennis was really high, particularly in the men's final - Jade Culph was coming off an amazing year. It was an outstanding match between two guys that are both in great form.
"Seeing Duckworth going well at the Australian Open, Brandon used to beat those guys and he though, hang on, I can still do this."
The weekend also saw Griffith Tennis Club stalwart and local favourite Cheryl Rawle honoured for her service to the game with a special award presented to her by Tennis NSW.
Shanahan described Rawle as "the reason why we come down here every year, without a doubt."
An overwhelmed Rawle said: "It hasnt sunk in. You just do what you do and good things happen. We've got a beautiful facility down here, tennis is a great sport and a sport for life."
"There's a lot of joy and fun to be had in sport and lucky enough to be involved in it. It's nice to be recognised but you dont do things for recognition, it's just what you do with kids in sport.
"It's great recognition that tennis is alive and well in the Griffith area and it's nice to be recognised as part of that."