Wednesday 21 December 2011 | Published in Regional
The future of tennis in the Cook Islands is secure and looking bright with the recent junior tennis tour to New Zealand an opportunity for local players to gain experience and confidence on the tennis court.
After a successful first up tournament in Hamilton, a group of 16 players and their caregivers travelled five hours to Gisborne for the Poverty Bay East Coast Junior Tennis Christmas tournament.
The tournament included over 180 players from Australia, the ITF Pacific Oceania Junior Squad and other young New Zealanders from neighbouring towns including Wellington and Whakatane.
The first two days saw the under 10, 14 and 18-year-olds begin their campaign while the 12 and 16 age grade ended their four-day tournament.
Tennis Cook Islands president Madeline Sword, who was on the tour with the junior tennis players, says that great results were produced by the local players.
Great results were tabled by the local players considering they were disadvantaged with a new court surface and had a touch of the cold windy rain snap that hit the East Coast on the final day, says Sword.
Due to heavy rain on the last day of tournament the plate finals matches were cancelled.
Overall, a lot of tournament match experience was gained by the youngsters in the 11-day tour, an important educational exercise, and a fantastic opportunity for them to step up and show their true colours, says Sword.
I am so proud of our juniors especially the little ones who made their debut in this tournament along with the national coach Malcolm Kajer, we believe our future in tennis is secure with the talent that is coming through the ranks.
All in all, Sword said they saw and felt it all the inner-fight, the heartache, the frustration and the joy.
Best of all it was great to see the kids mingle effortlessly with other participants from other countries while some have built wonderful relationships in the tennis world.
In the under 10 boys singles division Leandro Vakatini came fourth and runner up in the doubles division with partner Elijah Amataiti.
In the plate finals of the under 10 boys division Kave Crocombe placed third and Robert Healey came fourth.
In the under 10 girls division Zsaleya Sword-Tua placed fourth overall in the singles division.
Andrew Terupe was runner up in the under 12 boys singles consolation division while Leandro Vakatini and his Australian doubles partner were runner up in the under 12 boys doubles division.
Eva Patai and Bobbie Jo Healey won the under 12 girls doubles consolation.
Kiana Sword-Tua won the under 12 girls singles division as well as the doubles division of the age grade with her doubles partner Anasis Saipele from Samoa.
Both girls had too much island power for the Aussies in the semis and finals.
In the under 16 boys division Roland Neururer and Fred Pickering were runner up winners of the doubles division with their match played in dire conditions.
Vaine Koteka teamed up with Tayla Beddoes to take out the under 16 girls doubles division and the darling of the tournament, Lilian Maui, won the under 18 singles division and with Vaine Koteka as her doubles partner the strong duo went on to win the doubles division.
The tennis players now take a break over Christmas and New Years, and the serious work begins in preparation for the Pacific Oceanic Junior Championships campaign to be staged in July hosted by Fiji.
Players must make it in the top four in their age group at this tournament to gain a place on the ITF Pacific Oceania Junior Squad circuit.
Currently, the Cook Islands is represented by Tamarua Payne. The 15-year-old will compete in the under 19 ITF Junior Tennis Circuit in Melbourne Australia next month.