After a tumultuous professional debut season on the Women’s Tennis Association tour, Ngāti Tūwharetoa’s Paige Hourigan is ready to take on the world’ best again next week at the ASB Classic in Auckland.
The 22-year-old is back to try and go one better in the doubles draw, where she made the final last year, but has also been given a wildcard entry into the main singles draw. It’s a welcome shot in the arm for women’s tennis in Aotearoa, which has struggled to produce much success in recent years.
Hourigan says that the key for young wāhine tennis hopefuls is persistence and commitment to their goal of making it. She admits that she is the sole shining light in the women's game right now in these parts, but is excited and a bit nervous for the tournament that starts on Monday.
Just outside, 39-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams had just arrived and was warming up on centre court. While she is friends with older sister Venus, Hourigan says she hasn't had much to do with Serena during her debut year on the WTA. However, she is hopeful that Venus might be able to organise a practice session with Serena at some stage during the tournament.
Last year Hourigan and American partner Taylor Townsend were in control of the doubles final, winning the first set 6-1. However they were eventually beaten in a deciding tie breaker by Eugenie Bouchard and Sofia Kenin.
Her current ranking is 438 in the world, and she says she aiming to break into the top 300 by this time next year.