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Some of Otago’s top tennis talent lit up the North Otago Open in Oamaru last weekend as the tournament celebrated its biggest field in several years.

On January 11 and 12, 32 men and six women competed in their respective singles fields, while 16 men’s and four women’s pairings vied for doubles titles.

The Chelmer St grass courts were in top condition and North Otago Tennis president Josh Dalziel said it was a “fantastic weekend” of tennis.

“We were absolutely rapt with the men’s draw and we got really good support from the locals [entering],” Dalziel said.

“We also had some really good players from outside the area as well, which always helps make it good for everyone to watch.

“The weather played its part, so that always makes for a good weekend, but [competitors] all said the courts were looking really good and they were happy with the competition.”

The men’s singles title was won by Dunedin’s Paddy Ou. He defeated Ryan Eggers, who is now based in Auckland but still plays for Otago, in Sunday’s final in three sets 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Ou and Eggers are top-100 New Zealand-ranked players.

Ou also had success in the doubles. He and Carlos Reid won the men’s final 6-2, 6-4 against Eggers and Gavin Mockford.

Oamaru 17-year-old Mackenzie Phillips beat Belinda Hirst, also of Oamaru, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to take the women’s singles crown.

“She’s playing really well at the moment,” Dalziel said.

Phillips teamed up with Gabrielle Grady to win the women’s doubles title, conceding only six games in the entire round robin.

In 2018, there was no women’s competition in the North Otago Open because of a lack of entries, and last year’s tournament was scrapped entirely because of low entry numbers, so Dalziel was thrilled with the number and quality of entries in 2020.

“We’ve still got a bit of work to do to build it up over the next few years,” he said.

The North Otago senior club competition resumed last night and the region’s best players will soon start training for the second round of the Southern Open Teams Event in Dunedin in February. North Otago will enter teams in divisions 1 and 2.

The North Otago closed tournament will be contested in mid-to-late March.

“We’ll hope to see all of the locals who played at the Open playing again, and a few more with a bit of luck,” Dalziel said.

North Otago Tennis has recently received a grant of $75,000 from the Otago Community Trust to assist with upgrading four of the 12 grass courts at Chelmer St to Rebound Ace cushioned hardcourt.

The planned upgrade, which also includes lighting, will enable tennis to be played in Oamaru year-round, while keeping the majority of grass courts.

Dalziel said the project had been in the pipeline for some time. The Otago Community Trust had approved a grant towards the project in 2017 that was later withdrawn on North Otago Tennis’ request.

North Otago Tennis is also seeking a Lottery grant to ensure the project can become a reality.

“There’s still a wee bit to go through before we get there .. but third time’s a charm and with any luck we might actually get it over the line this time,” Dalziel said.

“If we do, it’ll be awesome for North Otago Tennis .. As good as grass courts are to play on, and as much of a shame as it is to see them go, it gives us that consistency all year round, rather than only being able to play for six months of the year.”