Ben heads local hopes
By MITCHELL DALE
ENTRY numbers for this weekend's Northern NSW 24th annual open tennis tournament have been growing faster than Roger Federer's bank account, with the event attracting a record field.
In the past two years, player numbers for Westside Tennis Club's major annual event have gone through the roof, with the 2004 tournament almost double the size of 2002.
"Last year we had 170 players and the year before that there were 130, so we are well up on that," Westside club professional Allan Pade said.
"Without giving ourselves a big head, we organise a good competition and I think the players appreciate and remember that.
"Another reason would be that it is part of the Shell super series, where points are awarded to junior players who perform well. It is one of about 11 tournaments throughout the year and at the end the best players from each age group receive a cash prize."
Pade said the tournament employs a staggered draw, whereby younger players will meet in the early rounds, before progressing to meet the older, higher seeded players.
Last year's winner, Ryan Andrews, from the Raworth club near Newcastle, will be back to defend his title, but Pade said there were a number of local juniors showing promise.
Of the local contingent, Pade thinks Ben Vandenberg (Westside), Adam Berrada (Sawtell), Bryce Cunningham (Coffs Harbour) and Matt Wray (Coffs Harbour) will compete well in the men's singles, while Millie Campbell (Westside) and Karissa Knox (Sawtell) are expected to perform strongly in the women's singles.
Vandenberg, 17, is hoping to perform well at the 18 years stage of the tournament, and he said anything after that point would be a learning curve.
"I would love to win it, but it will be more about getting experience," Vandenberg said. "This is probably one of the harder tournaments I will play in the year, but my game has been coming along pretty well."