By Mick Jensen
Allenton Sport Club’s grass tennis courts proved invaluable for Ashburton tennis aces Neil McCann and Andre Van Rooyen, who starred at the New Zealand Seniors tournament in Christchurch.
McCann won the 50-plus singles event and teamed up with Van Rooyen to win the doubles.
It was the first time the pair have played a doubles tournament together.
Twelve years ago McCann won the singles event in the 40-49 years category at the same tournament.
Unseeded for this year’s event, he beat both the number 2 and number 3 seeds on the way to a showdown with the top seed in the final.
“The final was a tough three-hour match. I won the first set 6-4, but was 5-2 behind in the second set, before I picked up my game and eventually won in a tie-break,” McCann said.
He said he was feeling the effects of playing over five days, but was still on a “tennis high”.
McCann had a one-hour break between his singles final and a thrilling doubles semi final match.
Van Rooyen said he was very pleased McCann had dug deep to complete his singles final in two sets.
The pair had been forced to battle hard in the semi, but had played the perfect game when it mattered and stunned their opponents 10-1 in the super tie break decider.
“We didn’t know it at the time, but that semi final was to be our final. Our opponents in the final had to default because of injury,” said Mr Van Rooyen.
Van Rooyen and McCann said that two weeks of good practice on the Allenton grass courts helped prepare them for the national tournament, which is not usually played on grass.
“We were able to get used to the lower bounce of the ball and other aspects of the grass game like more net play and shorter rallies,” McCann said.
The Allenton courts were on par with the best courts in Christchurch and were a real asset for Mid Canterbury tennis players, he said.
Van Rooyen, who is the full-time coach for Mid Canterbury Tennis, said tennis in the district was doing very well.
Recent high performance and general tennis camps had been booked to capacity and local players were looking forward to defending the Browning Shield, a Canterbury country tournament, at the end of this month.
McCann, 51, and Van Rooyen, 50, both hail from the same region of Natal, South Africa, and played briefly together in the same tennis team nearly 40 years ago.