Canberra's premier event sadly lacks local entrant!
Canberra's premier event sadly lacks local entrant
By Peter Brewer
Wednesday, 5 January 2005
If tournament manager Gerard Corradini has only one small regret in the lead-up to Canberra's international tennis tournament starting Friday, it's that there's no local player in the line-up.
Not even in the qualifiers.
"We have a few good female players in the ACT who are 15 and 16 [years old] and moving up through the ranks but unfortunately, they're not quite to this [professional] level yet," Corradini said.
"Hopefully, now that we've locked this event into the WTA [Womens' Tennis Association] tour through to 2007, we might see some of these players coming through in the next few years."
Hopes have also dimmed for having even one Australian in the draw when it was learned yesterday that Nicole Pratt may pull out. Pratt, ranked 50th in the world and seeded sixth in the Canberra Classic, suffered a knee strain during practice in the lead-up to the Australian Hardcourt Championships and has withdrawn from the Gold Coast event to seek treatment.
The 31-year-old traditionally prefers the warm Canberra conditions as her preparation for the Australian Open.
Given Canberra's modest population and the range of excellent sports facilities on offer in the ACT, in recent years tennis fans have been fortunate to have two "homeground" players of sufficient ability - Annabel Ellwood and Amanda Grahame - to make the cut through the qualifying draw or by gaining a wildcard.
But these days, the best-ranked international players always gain priority. It's mind-boggling to think how many young girls are practising their tennis day in, day out, keen to work their way up through the ranks just to gain entry to the qualifying round for events like the Canberra Women's Classic.
For Canberra's Tier V-rated event, priority entry is given to the 24 best women's tennis players ranked below 20 on the WTA Tour.
Four players can earn their way through the qualifying round, three through wildcards and the final spot is for the best recent winner of a tournament on a tier below Canberra's.
That lucky spot fell to Michaella Krajicek, the 15-year-old half-sister of former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek. She grabbed the final place in the 32-woman draw by winning a challenge tournament in Bergamo, Italy, on December 14.
But consider the plight of the hundreds of other potential qualifiers who are desperate to be the next Jennifer Capriati or Alicia Molik.
"The depth of talent in women's tennis is quite extraordinary; we've got a waiting list of 30 players to get into the qualifying round," Corradini said. "These girls have rankings of up to 800 in the world. We've got some Aussies on that list but they won't get in on their ranking."
The top seed for the Classic is Italian Silvia Farina Elia, who was runner-up last year, although two former champions in Anna Smashnova and Meghann Shaughnessy are also on the comeback trail, and seeded two and three respectively.
The Canberra Classic, played on a Rebound Ace surface, will offer prizemoney of more than $140,000.