By Dave Gertler
(November 21, 2013) SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – Round four of the Asia-Pacific Tennis League’s New South Wales Conference was headlined by four-time Grand Slam doubles finalist Casey Dellacqua, who has spent the off-season in Sydney gearing up for what will be a physically demanding 2014 season.
The Asia-Pacific Tennis League is the premier national team tennis competition in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. With five separate State conferences and four to six separate men’s and women’s teams within each conference, the ATL brings rising stars from the ITF and Challenger tours together with elite ATP and WTA players, both active and retired.
The format of the ATL is similar to World Team Tennis, teams competing in fast-paced singles and doubles rubbers, whose shortened format features first-to-four sets, super tie-breaks and playing service lets. Spectators enjoy both elite-level tennis and other entertainment including courtside music and team mascots.
Australian household names like Pat Rafter (Sunshine Coast Breakers), Wally Masur, Casey Dellacqua (Stanmore Wyverns) and Nick Kyrgios (Canberra Velocity) have been involved in five rounds leading to the Conference Finals. The League Finals will take place during the second week of the Australian Open, on the outside courts of Melbourne Park.
“I haven’t hit a ball for a few weeks,” said Dellacqua after the day of ATL matches at City Community Tennis Centre, Prince Alfred Park. “A lot of my focus has been more about the physical side, so my body’s pretty sore but it was good to get out here today and pick up the racquet, have some fun and get out there with a couple of the girls and enjoy myself.”
Her team, the Stanmore Wyverns, relied on her to win her doubles in straight sets, after they were pushed hard in other rubbers by host club UTS City Lizards. The final match score was Wyverns 3-7-35 to Lizards 3-6-35, meaning the match was decided by one set.
While Dellacqua and Wyverns No.2 singles player Monique Adamzcak both won their singles convincingly, Stephanie Bengson and Lucie Kriegsmannova fought back for the Lizards in stand-out singles rubbers against Julia Moriarty and Angelique Svinos respectively, levelling match score at 2-2.
The rubber between Bengson and Moriarty was particularly crucial as it was the hard-fought set Moriarty won, in the only three-setter of the day, which would ultimately clinch the win for the Wyverns.
The doubles combination of Kriegsmannova and Bengson then went on to defeat Moriarty and big-hitting Deeon Mladin in a match full of reflex volleying exchanges and big serving.
Moriarty/Mladin only won two games in straight first-to-four sets, the 4-2, 4-0 score not indicative of the quality of the highly-entertaining points.
Doubles pair Dellacqua/Adamzcak needed to win their match in straight sets against UTS City Lizards’ Jess Engels and Renee Beck, which is exactly what they did, sealing the match for the Wyverns and confirming their place at the ATL Conference Play-off, to be played next Friday 29 November at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre.
Dellacqua, whose focus is on improving her singles ranking in 2014, said she’d also like to go one step further in doubles, having made it to the finals of all four Grand Slams – Roland Garros in 2008 with Francesca Schiavone, and the other three in 2013 with Ashleigh Barty. “Ash and I will continue to play,” said Dellacqua, ‘We’ve obviously had a great year but we’d like to go one step further and win a Grand Slam. We made three finals, so it’d be nice to win one.”
Earlier in the day, the men’s round 4 action saw a strong display of tennis between Stanmore Wyverns and Sydney Olympic Rebels. Seventeenth ranked Australian Adam Feeney had a solid win over 21-year-old Simon Ede, and Jonathon Cooper had a surprise win over his former coach and ATP 105-ranked player Todd Reid. Unfortunately for the Rebels, the Wyverns won the other two singles rubbers, and both doubles, to win the match 4-9-45 to 2-6-34.
The event was held at City Community Tennis, which has been nominated as a finalist for the 2013 Newcombe Medal for Most Outstanding Tennis Community in Australia.
Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama. Follow him on Twitter @davegertler, read his blog, and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .