Record numbers for Lake Macquarie Open but limited local input

The Lake Macquarie Junior Open experienced record attendance this year but the number of local talent emerging was limited.

Lake Macquarie Tennis Centre manager Keith Williams was thrilled with the response to the nationally rated tournament but felt local participation rates had dropped dramatically in recent years.

“Numbers for coaching, that is kids turning up to coaching, are quite sound but generally speaking numbers for tournament play in the Hunter are not anywhere near where they used to be,” Williams said.

“There has probably been a 50 per cent reduction if you go back 10 years.”

The Open forms part of the Tennis Australia Junior Tour and offers valuable national ranking points.

Williams said a lot of players come to the Lake Macquarie Open, which was played between the Cardiff courts and District Park courts at Broadmeadow, chasing points.

He said while local numbers were down it remained an important event for Lake Macquarie.

“We got 170-odd entries over the three age groupings of 12s, 14s and 16s,” he said.

“It is the biggest [junior tennis] event for Lake Macquarie and I think it’s worthwhile for Lake Macquarie to have a junior tournament, and a national ranking tournament.

“It means it is promoted nationally and attracts people from all over the state.

“There were quite a few people staying here, so 170 players, add in parents and maybe a few siblings as well, and you get an influx of 500 people coming to the area for the weekend.”

He said the result was a cash injection to the area but the tournament also created interest locally in tennis.

“Having a tournament or event is a great way of promoting interest in tennis,” Williams said. “A couple of my kids who had entered but couldn’t get in because they didn’t have a ranking, came down to have a look and it was good because it was a learning curve for them.”

The finals in each age group were dominated by players from out of area.

New Lambton’s Lleyton Richards was the best-performed Hunter player, finishing runner-up in the 16-years doubles with Dural’s Lachlan Flower. Hewas the only Newcastle player to make a final.

“Newcastle over the years has been a real stronghold of tennis play and tennis development at junior level in NSW and Australia,” Williams said.

“We’ve produced some great juniors and even some high-level pros.

“At the moment, I don’t see that as much.

“I think the Hunter area has dropped out a bit and I don’t think we are producing the players we were on a state basis as we were 10 and 20 years ago, even five years.”

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