BENDIGO’S status as the home of tennis in regional Victoria has been further enhanced by the announcement a Tennis Victoria Premier League team will be based in the city.
For the first time in the competition’s history, a Country All-Stars squad will compete alongside high-profile metropolitan clubs in Victoria’s elite team tennis league.
Bendigo tennis products Curt Garwood, Aiden Fitzgerald and Adam Fleming have been selected in the Country All-Stars squad and will get the opportunity to play against players of the calibre of former Australian Davis Cup player Peter Luczak.
“To have a Premier League team based out of Bendigo is exciting for Bendigo tennis,’’ Bendgo Tennis Association chief executive Leon Retallick said yesterday.
“Players like Curt, Aiden and Adam wouldn’t normally get this opportunity to play in such a high quality competition. It gives our younger players something to aspire to without having to move to Melbourne.
“We’ll have players like Peter Luczak, who was in the top 100 in the world, and Adam Feeney, who is in the top 250 in the world, hopefully coming up here to play.
“We think this will work well and, hopefully, we get plenty of people out to watch the games.”
The Country All-Stars’ number one player will be Sunbury-based Andrew Gregory, who previously had a world ranking of 720.
AIS scholarship holder Harry Bourchier is in the Country All-Stars squad, but is unlikely to play every round.
The seven-team men’s competition is made up of the Country All-Stars, MCC (where Luczak and Feeney will play), Royal South Yarra, Kooyong, Waverly, Grace Park and Dingley.
Each club hosts one super round where all clubs compete. Bendigo is expected to host its super round on Sunday, March 24.
“The All-Stars add a new dimension to this competition and ensure that country players have the opportunity to play in a high level competition and spectators have the chance to watch some great tennis without travelling to the city,” said Tennis Victoria’s competitions manager Jeff Downes.
“The All-Stars will have some strong competition from the other clubs, I believe this is the strongest field ever seen in the Premier League competition.”
Grace Park will be headlined by Dane Propoggia, who has an Australian ranking of 17, while the 48th ranked Australian Aaron Leeder-Chard will spearhead the Waverly squad.
The Premier League seasons runs from March 1 through to mid-April.
Bendigo tennis ace Eliza Long will play for MCC in the women’s Premier League. No women’s matches will be played in Bendigo.
Bendigo was selected to host the squad on the back of its successful staging of its annual Pro Tour tournament and last year’s junior Davis Cup.
“We have a great working relationship with Tennis Victoria and Tennis Australia,’’ Retallick said.
“We have a great complex here in Bendigo and they like running their events here because the facilities are so good.
“They could have based this regional team anywhere in Victoria, but they chose us which is a great sign for Bendigo.”