THE Griffith Tennis Club is “breaking new ground” with the first ever junior tournament for Australian ranking points held in the city, according to club great Cheryl Rawle.
The inaugural Optus Junior Tennis Tournament kicked off on Monday at the Jack Shannon Courts and has attracted players from right around the Riverina, as well as the capital cities.
But while it is an achievement in itself for Griffith to have secured a points tournament, it is the structure of the competition that makes this particular one stand out.
A recent rule change has allowed Rawle and the club to run a round robin bracket, as opposed to a knockout competition, which will guarantee more tennis for junior players when they need it the most.
“We’re trying to send a powerful message out – if you come to Griffith you get a heap of tennis,” she said.
“I’ve just been to Parkes and one of our better boys for three days only played three sets of tennis.
“He lost two tiebreakers and that’s just how the system works.
“When we travel, we travel three or five hours wherever we go and I’m never happy with the amount of matches the kids get to play.
“Tennis is about playing lots of matches and learning.
“For kids it takes a bit of pressure off, knowing if they lose they’re not out of the main draw.
“That’s a heck of a pressure for young kids. If you think mum and dad have paid for a motel, traveled so many hours and you lose your first match, your consolation match – it’s all over. But now they can just go out and play, not worrying about it.
“We’re trying to offer something different that isn’t on offer in the city centres. They’ve got the luxury, if they play and get knocked out, they only have to go down the road to play again.”
Aside from the points tournament in the under 12, 14 and 16 age divisions, the Griffith Tennis Club is also holding an adjacent tournament that is not for ranking points.
The secondary competition is for the bottom-aged players in those groups – under 11, 13 and 15s – allowing them the opportunity to face off against players of equal standing.
The club has also introduced a mixed competition, which Rawle said should bring a bit of much-needed joy back to the game.
Rawle said none of this week’s events would be possible without the computer software provided by Steve Longworth, which maps out a timed draw best suited to play in country areas.