TENNIS: Greenhalgh lone Kiwi survivor
James Greenhalgh is the lone Kiwi survivor in the singles draw at the US$25,000 Gallagher International Challenger in Hamilton, as Swedish qualifiers Nicklas Timfjord and Matthias Hellstrom upset Kiwi opponents.
Top Kiwi tennis player Mark Nielsen failed at the first hurdle, going down to promising Swede Hellstrom, winning the first set but lacking consistency in the final two sets for a 5-7 6-3 6-1 scoreline.
The match was always going to be close despite disparate rankings. Nielsen was the tournament's sixth seed, with an entry ranking of 218 compared to Hellstrom as a qualifier and a ranking of 530.
But Hellstrom showed he is a player with a big future and has a well-drilled game, if only he can get over consistent back injuries which have restricted him to only two events since July.
A former world junior number four, Hellstrom looks like he should still be at school but is actually 22-years-old. He pulled off numerous forehand and backhand winners and out-thought Nielsen in the close-fought second set, before wrapping up the third set quickly.
This is Hellstrom's second visit to New Zealand after competing in the three Futures tournaments in Tauranga, Timaru and Christchurch last year, where he was a singles semifinalist, finalist and quarterfinalist respectively.
In a late afternoon match, wildcard Teo Susnjak fell to qualifier Timfjord in three sets. Timfjord and doubles partner Hellstrom have been training in Hamilton since last Wednesday and seem to quickly work out tactics against their opponents and don't mind hitting winners.
Timfjord's score was similar to Hellstrom's, dropping the first set in a close affair before storming back for the match 6-7(3) 6-3 6-1.
Auckland's Mark Thompson couldn't quite overcome his Australian opponent, as he led in both sets against Queensland's Joseph Sirianni but couldn't capitalise on a 4-2 lead in each set.
Thompson still emerges from the event with both a singles and doubles ranking point which will improve his tournament entry rankings: "The point from here will help me move up a little in the rankings and maybe get me into the main draw of Futures events.
"I had a lot of chances but didn't take them...that always happens. I guess if I play more of these tournaments and players, I'll know when to take the chances," he said.
James Greenhalgh re-started his singles career with a solid win over American Jim Thomas in his first-round match. "I played really well and kept a good level for the whole match. He was the one who played up and down," said Greenhalgh, returning to Hamilton where he spent some of his formative years.
"I spent three years playing tennis in Hamilton and played for Waikato in the teams events. It's good to get the five ranking points which gets me into qualifying for tournaments." Greenhalgh will play his second-round singles match against Australian Peter Clark on Thursday.
In other matches, seventh seed Ishii Yaoki of Japan was defeated by Australia's Peter Clarke in a drawn-out three-set match, while qualifier Jaymon Crabb scored a win over Donavan September and will now play Hellstrom.
Third seed Barry Cowan of the United Kingdom ranked 197th used his big serve to good effect for a tight straight sets win over Australian qualifier Paul Baccanello 7-5 7-6(5).
Top seed Goichi Motomura showed real class to destroy Australian Matthew Breen 6-2 6-2 in his first-round match.
The first part of the second round will see second seed Dejan Petrovic back in action, as the 176th ranked player faces up to the big-serving Brit Justin Layne, while fourth seed Neville Godwin of South Africa will have his work cut out against Timfjord.
Fifth seed Michael Hill of Sydney and American Michael Joyce are both creeping quietly through the draw and play Yves Allegro and Lee Pearson respectively.
One doubles pairing involving Kiwis is certain to move into the quarterfinals as wildcard combinations Derek Burden and Adam McNeil of Auckland are drawn against Lee Radovanovich and Australian partner Peter Clarke. Mark Nielsen and James Greenhalgh will also play their respective first round doubles matches - Dave Worsley.
First Round Singles Results
Joseph Sirianni(AUS) bt WC-Mark Thompson(NZL) 7/6(3) 6/4
Q-Jaymon Crabb(AUS) bt Donavan September(RSA) 6/2 7/5
WC-James Greenhalgh(NZL) bt Jim Thomas(USA) 6/4 6/2
Jordan Kerr(AUS) bt Paul Hanley(AUS) 3/6 6/2 6/2
Q-Matthias Hellstrom(SWE) bt 6-Mark Nielsen(NZL) 5/7 6/4 6/1
Lee Pearson(AUS) bt Damien Roberts(RSA) 6/2 6/3
3-Barry Cowan(GBR) bt Q-Paul Baccanello(AUS) 7/5 7/6(5)
5-Michael Hill(AUS) bt Taso Vasiliadis(GRE) 6/4 6/4
1-Goichi Motomura(JPN) bt Matthew Breen(AUS) 6/2 6/2
Q-Nicklas Timfjord(SWE) bt WC-Teo Susnjak(NZL) 6/7(3) 6/3 6/1