Long's in mix for wildcard to Bendigo International tennis classic 

Knowsley teenager Eliza Long could receive a wildcard into the main draw of the $40,000 William Loud Bendigo International.

The Bendigo Tennis Association is in discussions with Tennis Australia about handing Long direct entry to the Pro Circuit event beginning October 29 at the Bendigo Bank complex in Nolan Street.

Long was eliminated in the first round of qualifying last year, but has since gone on to win the national girls’ under-16 title as well as four senior singles events.

“They don’t have a local wildcard for main draw, but Eliza’s got her ranking up to 46 in Australia, (although) unfortunately she doesn’t have any WTA points,” BTA executive officer Leon Retallick said.

“She’s done very well, obviously, at a lot of state and national events and we’re hopeful that will hold a bit of sway with the powers that be at Tennis Australia. 

“They have a selection panel which is led by Nicole Pratt… they have four wildcards, they always distribute them to Australian-based players who aren’t in the main draw.”

If Long is accepted into the main draw, she could face the likes of 16-year-old sensation Ashleigh Barty.

The Queenslander made her grand slam debut at the Australian Open this year, before also earning wildcards into the French Open and Wimbledon. “She’s a reason to come and watch. She’s hopefully the next Sam Stosur,” Retallick said.

Olivia Rogowska, who beat Barty at a Pro Circuit event final in Western Australia at the weekend, is likely to be number one seed in the $25,000 women’s draw.

Long was the Maxine Crouch Trust Fund recipient in the Bendigo Advertiser-WIN Television Sports Star of the Year for 2011-12.

The longrunning award is sponsored by bankmecu.

The Catholic College Bendigo student won the open singles and doubles titles at the recently-run Bendigo Junior Open and Association Championships.

Retallick expects an even spread of Australian and international players in the women’s draw when acceptances are confirmed next week.

“There’s a good mix of national and international players. The women’s pays more and you get more ranking points,” he said.

“Probably for the men it will be mostly Aussies.”

Last year’s winner, Matt Reid will defend his title in the $15,000 men’s draw, along with 2011 finalist and number one seed Ben Mitchell.

Queenslander John Millman is likely to be the highest-ranked male at 268th in the world, while former world number one junior and 2011 junior Wimbledon champion Luke Saville is set to return to Bendigo.

Record-breaking big-hitter Sam Groth is doubtful, though, with the 2010 tournament winner pulling out last week.

“The only person I don’t think is coming, which is a bit of a disappointment, is Sam Groth,” Retallick said yesterday.

“Kids love to watch him. The guy’s got the three fastest serves in the history of tennis and four of the top five, it’s extraordinary really. We’d certainly love to see him out here having a game.

“He’s a bit of a funny one Sam, he might come back at the last minute and play – that’s what he did last year.”

Despite Groth’s likely absence, Retallick encouraged spectators to head down to the Nolan Street tennis complex to watch 16-year-old rising star Thanasi Kokkinakis.

“He will be something, he’s a future top-10 player,” he said.

With a public holiday for the Bendigo Cup on the second day of the main draw, Retallick hoped families who don’t go to the races would watch the tennis.

“It doesn’t cost anything, you just turn up,” he said.

Voted the best tennis tournament in Victoria, the William Loud international is entering its fourth year. 

Retallick said the event was going from strength-to-strength and could become even bigger.

“We’re actually in some interesting discussions at the moment about the event going forward,” Retallick said.

“For Pro Circuit we get far more spectators than any of the other venues. 

“Tennis Australia is really happy with us and happy to look to build that event.”

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