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No Easy Road To Titles And Wildcards At NZ Tennis Champs

Tuesday 8 December 2015, 8:51AM

By dave worsley

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AUCKLAND

There will be some tough matches for top players in the early rounds of the Pascoes The Jewellers New Zealand Tennis Champs starting today at North Harbour as the draws look set to put some challenges in front of those aiming for the reward of wildcards into the ASB Classic in January.

Top seed and world ranked 365th Finn Tearney of Wellington looks set to meet Canterbury’s top teenager Conor Heap in the quarter-finals and then the defending champion Michael Venus who made the second round of the Heineken Open earlier this year. Venus who plays singles in the New Zealand Davis Cup team despite his top 50 in the world doubles ranking will have a quarters match up against Canterbury’s Remi Feneon if seedings go to plan.

Artem Sitak should meet big-serving Cantab James Meredith in the quarters which will be a tough contest as Meredith has scored a couple of recent wins over the fourth seed.

At the bottom of the draw last year’s beaten finalist Rubin Statham will likely face Queenstown’s Riki McLachlan in the second round and is seeded to meet former Davis Cup player GD Jones in the quarters assuming he gets past big-hitting Rhett Purcell early on.

The women’s singles draw is full of junior talent and has Sacha Jones, a multiple winner of the title as top seed and scheduled to face promising junior Ashleigh Harvey from Tauranga in the semifinals if seedings work out.

In the bottom half of the draw Rosie Cheng as third seed and second seed Leela Beattie are the clear favourites to meet in the semifinals and to challenge Jones in the final

The men’s doubles draw features Sitak and Venus, the world No43 and 44 respectively as the top seeds. Tearney and former South African pro Wesley Whitehouse are second seeds and the defending champs, while former Davis Cup players GD Jones and William Ward are probably the dark horse team in the draw. Top seeds in the women’s doubles are Jones and Cheng.

Men’s singles and doubles winners gain valuable ATP ranking points and prizemoney from wildcards into January’s ASB Classic, while the women’s doubles winners gain a main draw wildcard into the ASB Classic women’s tournament. The women’s singles winner is awarded an ASB Classic qualifying wildcard.

The tournament is being held 7-12 December at the Albany Tennis Park, North Harbour with the semis and finals (Friday 11 from 2pm and Saturday 12 from 4pm) held at the ASB Tennis Arena in Auckland.