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TENNIS: NZ Davis Cup players front up at Hamilton

Three-quarters of the New Zealand Davis Cup team will be in first-round singles action today at the inaugural US$25,000 Gallagher International Challenger in what is a big day for the future of Kiwi tennis.

New Davis Cup team member Mark Thompson is the first New Zealander to take the court against Australian Joseph Sirianni in what will be a tough encounter for the Aucklander if he is to improve his current ranking of 724. The 24-year-old Thompson has a steady game but may lack enough power to challenge Sirianni, whose ranking is around 400 places higher than Thompson's.

James Greenhalgh has the second match on centre court and faces tall American Jim Thomas who has a big serve and could prove a handful for the Kiwi doubles specialist, unranked in singles and keen to get some points to kickstart his singles career. Greenhalgh will have to be careful not to let his enthusiasm overcome his consistency.

Mark Nielsen, New Zealand number one and the event's sixth seed, has a good chance to progress to the second round as he is drawn to play Swedish qualifier Mattias Hellstrom. The winner of this match will play either Kiwi wildcard Teo Susnjak or another qualifier, Swede Nicklas Timfjord, who defeated Auckland's Adam McNeil in the final round of qualifying in straight sets yesterday using powerful returns of serve to good effect

Top New Zealand junior Lee Radovanovich found the going tough in his first main draw of an ATP Tour event when he came up against former top 100 ranked player and tournament fourth seed, Neville Godwin of South Africa.

Godwin was a finalist in three challenger events last year, as well as making the quarterfinals of one challenger already this year and proved that experience counts at this level of tennis. Godwin looks on course to play Nielsen in the quarterfinals.

The seemingly nervous 17-year-old Radovanovich managed only one game as Godwin capitalised on every short ball hit by the Aucklander and ran away with a 6-0 6-1 win.

The only seed to lose on the first day was Australian eighth seed Paul Kilderry, ranked 297th, who fell to American Michael Joyce in three sets in a niggly match.

In other singles matches, second seed Dejan Petrovic found himself down a set before gaining his rhythm and rallying for a win over fellow Australian Luke Smith 5-7 6-1 6-1.

The last man into the draw, Justin Layne scored a solid win using his big serve over Slovakia's Boris Borgula, while Switzerland's Yves Allegro, who flew in from the snow and cold of Europe on Thursday, pulled out a three-set win over former Australian great hope Grant Doyle.

Paul Baccanello became the fourth player to qualify for the main draw but only after a remarkable triple tie-break match which saw him overcome South African Rik De Voest 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 7-6(5) - Dave Worsley.

Final Round Qualifying
Jaymon Crabb(AUS) bt Iain Bates(GBR) 6/2 6/4
Nicklas Timfjord(SWE) bt Adam McNeil(NZL) 6/1 6/4
Mattuas Hellstrom(SWE) bt Graeme Darlington(GBR) 6/2 7/5
Paul Baccanello(AUS) bt Rik De Voest(RSA) 7/6(5) 6/7(4) 7/6(5)

First Round Singles - Main Draw
2-Dejan Petrovic(AUS) bt Luke Smith(AUS) 5/7 6/1 6/1
Justin Layne(GBR) bt Boris Borgula(SVK) 6/2 6/3
Michael Joyce(USA) bt 8-Paul Kilderry(AUS) 6/3 6/7(4) 6/4
4-Neville Godwin(RSA) bt WC-Lee Radovanovich(NZL) 6/0 6/1
Yves Allegro(SUI) bt Grant Doyle(AUS) 3/6 6/4 6/3

Final Round Doubles Qualifying
Hellstronm(SWE)/Timfjord(SWE) bt Darlington(GBR)/Layne(GBR) 6/4 6/4

First Round Doubles - Main Draw
2-Kilderry(AUS)/Silcock(AUS) bt WC M Thompson(NZL)/Susnjak(NZL) 6/4 6/3

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