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spiceboy
Dec 29th, 2005, 09:07 PM
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Game, set and driver's licence for Classic's wildcard teenager

30.12.05
By Terry Maddaford


The stamps in Sacha Jones' passport tell one story. Having to juggle a key practice session today and sitting her driver's licence test tells another.

While most 14-year-olds spent their year trudging to and from school, Jones zipped from one tennis-playing country to another in search not so much of fame and fortune but valuable experience and World Tennis Association points.

Playing in countries as diverse as the United States, Morocco, Spain, Fiji, Thailand, Australia and Mexico would be exciting for anyone. For a 14-year-old it was a hectic schedule but one she loved.

Back home to play the ASB Classic, where she has a wildcard into the qualifying tournament which starts tomorrow, Jones works hard at keeping her life in balance.

"Playing the Classic qualifier is a big stepping stone but really, I have to regard it as just another step in my effort to reach the level I want," said Jones, who turned 15 last month.

"It will be the biggest test of my career. Or the driver's licence. I don't want to get to 20 and not be able to drive," she joked.

Playing the Classic is unusual in that she gets to play a match, or hopefully matches, in front of a home crowd after a year playing on five continents.

That's a big call for Jones, who lived her early years on Waiheke Island and began, aged 4, hitting a tennis ball with older brother GD, a New Zealand Davis Cup team member.

Small in stature, she quickly stood out as a player with a game destined to take her far.

She had the knack of taking the ball early and thumping a powerful return deep. It was an approach which won her many points - and matches.

"I then went through a phase when I was doing the opposite," said Jones, "but that didn't work. I've gone back to doing what I used to do."

At 1.7m and 54kg Jones is hardly an imposing figure on court. Any lack of size, however, she compensates for with her fitness, speed and never-give-up fighting ability.

"I see a lot of bigger, heavier players who are not as nimble as me. That is something I work on."

And schoolwork by correspondence, as she has done for the past 18 months.

"It was just too difficult trying to work school and tennis together. But in other things I feel I'm really lucky. I have tons of friends in New Zealand and worldwide. That's what I like about what I'm doing."

And winning.

spiceboy
Dec 29th, 2005, 09:10 PM
Tennis: Kiwis given four wildcards
29.12.05
By Dave Worsley

Four New Zealanders have been awarded wildcards into the singles qualifying at the 2006 ASB Classic.

Sacha Jones, 15, Kairangi Vano, 16 and Shona Lee, 17, all get their first chance in the qualifying while 23-year-old Tracey O'Connor, the highest ranked of the wildcards at 672 on the WTA rankings, has also secured a qualifying wildcard.

Canterbury player Ellen Barry, 16 who is ranked at 26 in the world juniors was offered a position in the qualifying but is recovering from an injury.

Another New Zealander, Paula Marama, 21, of Wellington, will play in the doubles qualifying on a wildcard.

Jones has an ITF junior ranking of 68 and became the youngest New Zealander ever to gain a WTA senior ranking at age 14. She is 818 in the world on the WTA rankings.

Lee is ranked at 717 while Vano has yet to gain a WTA rank but looks on target to make a good impression in 2006 after beating Lee in the final of the New Zealand 18s tournament and winning two ITF junior titles.

Qualifying starts on Saturday December 31 and continues Sunday January 1.

Farina Elia Fan
Dec 29th, 2005, 10:09 PM
lots of young players :eek:

polishprodigy
Dec 30th, 2005, 04:50 AM
So I guess the Eden and Paula Marama hype and hysteria is over?