Focus falls on Felixstowe tennis event
THE tennis focus will switch from Wimbledon to Felixstowe for the East of England Championships which start tomorrow.It will be the 111th tournament and the main spotlight will fall on the women battling it out for the $25,000 first prize, as well as key world ranking points.
By Mel Henderson
THE tennis focus will switch from Wimbledon to Felixstowe for the East of England Championships which start tomorrow.
It will be the 111th tournament and the main spotlight will fall on the women battling it out for the $25,000 first prize, as well as key world ranking points.
British number one Katie O'Brien will not be there but the three others who make up the top four - Melanie South, Anne Keothavong and Naomi Cavaday - are among a strong field.
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The challenge from the continent will be spearheaded by Finland's Emma Laine, the top seed, and Petra Cetkovska from the Czech Republic, who is seeded second.
Third seed South, the British number two, reached her highest world ranking last summer when she followed up a semi-final place at Felixstowe with another last-four finish and then a $25,000 success in China.
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Her first round victory over Alicia Molik in last month's prestigious Eastbourne tournament took her close to her highest ranking and success in Suffolk would mean another significant leap.
Fourth seed Keothavong is making a rare visit to Felixstowe and the fact that she has surrendered her British number one crown and slipped to third is sure to drive her on.
Cavaday came to a lot of people's attention at Wimbledon this year when she was very close to a shock victory over former champion Martina Hingis.
Britain's top 18-year-old had two match points against comeback star Hingis, who demonstrated the fighting qualities of a true champ to recover and win through after what she later admitted was an almighty scare.
Cavaday, who is now up to fourth in the British rankings, celebrated her first tournament victory as recently as March when, after having to qualify, she triumphed in California.
Austrian teenager Nikola Hofmanova, who rates grass as her favourite surface, heads for Felixstowe after being expected to be well to the fore in this week's Junior Championship at Wimbledon.
The 16-year-old, Czech-born and number five in the world rankings, was just 15 when she won the girls' under-18 title at the 60th Orange Bowl Championships in Key Biscayne, Florida, in October last year.
History is being made at Wimbledon with equal prize money of £700,000 for both men's and women's singles champions, but it's a different story in Felixstowe with the men's prize pot comprising £15,000.
Top seed Alun Jones of Australia has won several events at this level over the past year and has regularly reached Challenger quarter-finals, including only going out to big-serving Ivo Karlovic in a final set tie-break at Surbiton this year.
Last year's winner and second seed this time round, British number five Joshua Goodall recently won through qualifying at the Nottingham ATP event.
Third seed Nicolas Tourte of France returns to Felixstowe having won in 2005. He was runner-up to Michael Llodra in Grenoble and has also been enjoying some doubles success as well.
Fellow countryman and fourth seed Gary Lugassy reached the semi-finals here in 2005 and earlier this year he won three consecutive events and reached the final of a fourth.
Australia's Greg Jones, 18, is the world's number four junior and reached the final at Roland Garros before heading to Wimbledon. Earlier this year he played his first-ever Challenger event and reached the final.
Another Aussie and last year's runner-up, Luke Bourgeois returns hoping to go one better, although he won the 2006 doubles and has been in fine form in that event since then.
Also a winner last year, Olga Poutchkova of Russia, who beat Australia's Trudi Musgrave 6-2, 6-1 in the women's singles, went on to reach finals in India and Canada, and was seeded 30 at Wimbledon.
Play gets under way on Sunday at 10.30am and will commence at the same time every day, except for Saturday and Sunday, July 14 and 15, when the finals will be played, starting at 12 noon.