Traralgon, Australia, 16 October 2013 | Tennis Australia

Australia’s rising stars of tennis will step up their preparations for the coming summer at the Traralgon Tennis Challenger, with a strong field announced on Wednesday to contest the inaugural event.

Fifth-ranked Australian James Duckworth (NSW) will lead a quality field of title contenders, including 10 fellow Australians ranked inside the country’s top 20: Matthew Barton (NSW), Alex Bolt (SA), Adam Feeney (NSW), Chris Guccione (Vic), Greg Jones (NSW), Ben Mitchell (Qld), Dane Propoggia (NSW), Matt Reid (NSW), Jordan Thompson (NSW) and Andrew Whittington (Vic).

Rising star Nick Kyrgios (ACT) has also entered the event, with organisers hopeful the 18-year-old can recover from an elbow injury in time to compete.

Kyrgios won the Traralgon Junior International in January before taking out the Australian Open 2013 boys’ singles crown later that month.

Queenslander Ben Mitchell, who took out back-to-back Traralgon Pro Tour events in 2011 and 2012, will travel to the event in search of a third straight Traralgon title.

Mitchell’s win at the Traralgon Pro Tour event last October launched a successful summer for the now 20-year-old, winning the Australian Open Play-off at Melbourne Park in December and competing in his second Australian Open the following month.

Mitchell will face strong international opposition in his pursuit of a third Traralgon title. Frenchman Stephane Robert is the highest ranked player in the draw at No. 118, while American Bradley Klahn (No. 130), Japan’s Tatsuma Ito (No. 171) and Briton James Ward (No. 183) will all start early favourites to challenge for the trophy.

For the first time in 2013 the Traralgon tournament is an ATP Challenger-level event, with a lucrative US$50,000 prize purse up for grabs. The event remains a key stopover on the Australian Pro Tour series in the lead-up to the summer season.

Tennis Australia tournaments coordinator Jason Simmons, Traralgon Tennis Association manager Susie Grumley and Mayor of Latrobe City Council Sandy Kam today announced the 32-player field that will contest the event when play gets under way at Traralgon Tennis Association on Saturday 26 October.

“We’re really excited by the calibre of the field we have assembled for the inaugural Traralgon Tennis Challenger and look forward to a great week of tennis,” Simmons said.

“The strength of the field certainly reflects the new ATP Challenger status of the event, and the increased opportunities for players to share in a lucrative prize purse and earn world ranking points.

“The players love coming to compete in Traralgon and I know the community here is all set to welcome the players to town and to enjoy some quality tennis.”

Latrobe City Council Mayor Sandy Kam said the new-look ATP Challenger event was a major coup for Traralgon.

“It’s wonderful to welcome this talented pool of young Australian and international players to our city,” she said.

“The strength of the field is testament to the quality of the facilities provided at Traralgon Tennis Association. Traralgon has built a strong reputation for hosting top quality tennis tournaments and we know the community, not just in Traralgon but in Latrobe City, enjoys supporting the players and welcoming them to this region.”

In 2013 the Traralgon Tennis Challenger will also play host to the AO Blitz, a free community tennis event and part of the largest participation drive in Australian tennis history, on Sunday 27 and Monday 28 October.