3 Jan 2019

Kiwi women's tennis gets a good news story - finally

12:35 pm on 3 January 2019

By Jamie Wall

Opinion - It might have been on the back court in front of a couple of dozen fans, but the success of Paige Hourigan and her doubles partner Taylor Townsend is definitely worth talking about.

Paige Hourigan and doubles partner Taylor Townsend.

Taylor Townsend and Paige Hourigan. Photo: RNZ/SUPPLIED

The women's game in New Zealand has lurched from bad to much worse in a year's time, so this ray of hope couldn't have come at a better time.

At last year's tournament, the only kiwi woman to make the main singles draw was Jade Lewis, who was comprehensively beaten by then-world number 138 Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-3.

Lewis, who received half a million dollars from private funding organisation The Seed Foundation, has since quit the sport to focus on her studies.

Just before Christmas, Marina Erakovic also announced she was pulling the pin on her career too.

Erakovic can look back on her time with some pride though, reaching a top singles ranking of 39 and being a feature on the WTA tour since 2005.

The best run she ever had at her home tournament was a losing doubles final in 2011.

The situation has become so dire that there was no New Zealand presence in the main singles draw at all, with Hourigan, Valentina Ivanov and Elys Ventura all failing to make it through qualifying.

After Lewis' disappointing showing, it was hard to blame tournament organisers for handing their three available wildcards to foreigners.

However, thanks to Hourigan and Townsend's inspired comeback, we're not just cut, pasting and slightly updating our articles from last year.

The duo prevailed 3-6, 6-1, 10-8 over Australian duo Monique Adamczak and Jessica Moore.

While neither of those two names will have tennis fans gasping in disbelief, it now means that there will at least be a kiwi presence on centre court at the business end of the tournament.

The magnitude of that is not lost on Hourigan.

"I'm super happy. [Taylor] is playing incredible, she's super solid and hopefully we can keep it going," the 21-year-old told us after the game.

"It's so easy for me to relax and play better when Taylor's there."

After dropping the first set, the pair struck back hard to blitz the Australians in the second. Hourigan found herself serving for the match in the third set super-tiebreak.

"On my serve I was confident. When I knew it was my serve, I knew we had this point. I was feeling it."

At the same time, number one seed Caroline Wozniacki made short work of German Laura Siegemund on centre court 6-3, 6-2.

That's now two comfortable wins for last year's finalists, with defending champ Julia Goerges cruising past 6-0, 6-4 yesterday.

While Paige Hourigan won't be troubling either of them in the singles, this will be a nice treat for what will be a big crowd later in the week her doubles semi final.

It was a scorcher today out on centre court, with the temperature around 38C at one point.

But that didn't deter another big turnout, which followed on from a sell out last night for the highly anticipated [https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/379316/pulsating-encounter-the-perfect-consolation

Venus Williams v Viktoria Azarenka] match, won by the American 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.