Junior Grasscourt Open lures entrants from Estonia, China for a slice of summer

ESTONIAN teenager Annely Pokras basked in Warrnambool sunshine yesterday as she reflected on the bitter chill sweeping her homeland.

The temperature in Tallinn, the capital of the northern European country, will struggle to reach above zero degrees this weekend and there’s a strong chance of snow.

The forecast was enough for Annely, an emerging tennis player, and her father Andrei to commit to a 15,000-kilometre trip to south-west Victoria.

She was at Warrnambool Lawn Tennis Club yesterday to practice ahead of her first match in the club’s Junior Grasscourt Open.

The five-day tournament started with qualifying yesterday, although player numbers meant only boys took to the court to finalise the main draw contenders.

Annely, 16, played at Warrnambool two years ago and said she was happy to be back.

“My dad, he likes Australia so if I have a chance to practice here I just come and spend some time here,” she said. “My last trip was two years ago, it was good.”

Annely said she had a goal to be ranked in the top 100 female tennis players in the world.

The right-hander nominated her forehand as a strength but an injury to her left hand meant her backhand needed to improve.

She will contest the 16 and under girls’ section and wants to improve on her first-round defeat two years ago.

“It would be good to get to the final,” she said.

Tournament director Sam Baulch said about 280 players — 200 boys and 80 girls — would take to the Pertobe Road courts this week.

He said numbers were down on last year but were about average for the popular silver-ranked tournament.

“It’s about average for the last five years,” he said.

“Last year we had a very good year, we had 312.

“We’ve dropped back to a silver tournament this year. Whether that has affected it I don’t know.”

There are 25 south-west Victorians in the field.

Internationals come from China and Estonia while every state except Western Australia and Northern Territory are represented.

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