The tennis innovation the Asia-Pacific Tennis League (ATL) continues to change the landscape of tennis within the state of Victoria after the blistering finals were played under bright lights at the historic Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club.
The final night of this tennis competition didn’t disappoint the masses with both the men’s and women’s finals at the same venue making for an electric atmosphere.
The men’s final was fast-paced tennis at its best with the undefeated Liston Seagulls favourites heading into the match, after bolstering their lineup last week with wildcard qualification for world No.274 Matt Reid. Reid teamed up with the owner of the world’s fastest serve, Sam Groth, to form a formidable pair.
The Kooyong Classics, however, came out of the blocks early on the back of two successive 6-0 victories in the conference rounds, brimming with confidence after young gun and world No.767 Andrew Whittington took the first set off Groth.
In an enthralling and tense battle both players lit the courts up in true ATL style with Groth’s power and enormous suitability to this fast-paced format eventually clinching an early rubber for the Seagulls.
The Seagulls’ all-Victorian conference duo of Rubin Statham and James Lemke continued their awesome ATL performances, enjoying respective singles victories over the Classics’ Daniel Byrnes and Jay Salter.
The Classics’ Andrew Coelho, arguably the player of the competition, kept his team in the match with a methodical victory over the highly fancied Seagulls player Reid.
And so it came down to the doubles rubber, in which the Seagulls power duo of Groth and Reid were able to bring home victory for the Seagulls and book their team a berth in the ATL Playoffs.
In the women’s draw, in the tightest of matches throughout the evening, and in light showers, the girls enthralled the masses with tennis of the highest quality.
The Kooyong Classics entered the final undefeated and faced a red-hot Frankston Firebirds team bolstered by the qualification of wildcard player and world No.607 Storm Sanders as their top seed.
The opening rubber featured current world No.315 Sally Peers against Sanders, and true to her name, Sanders created rumblings with an epic upset victory. Under ATL rules, with the match was locked at a set all and 3-all in the third set, it progressed to a shortened tie break.
At four points all, Sanders and Peers found themselves in a sudden-death situation, and traded almost 40 shots in an epic rally before Sanders eventually ripped a winner down the line.
The Firebirds’ Nives Baric then owned the court in a powerful victory over the Classics’ highly-fancied Belinda Woolcock.
Just when an upset victory by the Firebirds loomed, the Classics’ Molly Polak and Michaela Johansson levelled proceedings with wins in their singles rubbers, ensuring the final would have to be decided in doubles play.
Peers, looking to make amends for her singles defeat, lead the charge in combination with Johansson to secure a vital rubber for Kooyong, and after dropping the first set, the Classics’ Woolcock and Kate Antosik powered home in an enthralling final set match tie break to help their team claim the Victorian Conference Title and a berth in the ATL Playoffs in January at Melbourne Park.
Tennis Victoria’s Competitions Manager Jeff Downes was thrilled by the success of the finals night and the standard of competition.
“Tonight was simply brilliant and what a fitting finale to a fantastic landscape-changing competition,” he said.
“The Victorian Conference men’s winners, the Liston Seagulls, were deserved winners and have certainly justified their preseason ranking as No.1 men’s team in Australia. In the women’s event the Kooyong Classics showed real character and determination tonight in clinching victory over the Firebirds, just when it appeared an upset was on the cards.
“I think both our Victorian Conference winners will be the teams to beat at the ATL Playoffs, highlighting how strong a conference we have had in terms of player quality in Victoria.”
Both teams will compete for over $95,000 in prizemoney against other Australian state conference winners and teams from Asia, Fiji and New Zealand.
All Victorian Conference Team Announcements
Sam Groth (Liston Seagulls), Andrew Coehlo (Kooyong Classics), James Lemke (Liston Seagulls), Rubin Statham (Liston Seagulls)
Belinda Woolcock (Kooyong Classics), Eliza Long (MCC Demons), Nives Baric (Frankston Firebirds), Ellen Perez (Frankston Firebirds)
Liston Seagulls def Kooyong Classics 4-1
Kooyong Classics def Frankston Firebirds 4-2