• Experienced Statkus to make Tennis Eastern debut

Experienced Statkus to make Tennis Eastern debut

Former Auckland premier interclub player Rudi Statkus will make his debut for Tennis Eastern in Saturdays Christie Cup defence against Taranaki in New Plymouth.

Havelock North's Statkus, 33, was selected for the corresponding fixture last summer but was unavailable with wrist and knee injuries. The Christie Cup is the symbol of Central Districts tennis supremacy.

"I had surgery on my knee last October. I'm on the comeback and I'm really enjoying it," Statkus said.

From Latvia, Statkus, has been in New Zealand since 2011. He has regularly been ranked among the country's top 50 players and has represented the Remuera club at Caro Bowl and Chelsea Cup levels in Auckland.

"There are a lot of good players in Hawke's Bay. I would prefer to see the Tennis Eastern squad made up of young players but I know the younger players will learn a lot from having some of us older players in the team," Statkus explained.

"My goal is to help some of the younger players here in the Bay reach the top level in the country," Statkus said.

He is likely to have the No 2 singles role and his doubles and mixed doubles partners won't be finalised until after the singles matches. Statkus proved he was ready for Christie Cup play when he and clubmate Zac Atkins reached the men's final of this month's Takapau Open where they lost to Greendale and Eastern teammates Luke Donovan and Jac Wardrope. 

Tennis Eastern development officer Sean Davies is rapt to have Statkus available particularly following the departure of former Kiwi No 1 Dan Willman to Auckland.

"Rudi has plenty of experience at the top level in New Zealand and brings plenty of enthusiasm. Our younger players will benefit from having him in the squad," Davies said.

He pointed out River Apatu is a doubtful starter with an injury and the promising Hunter Every has been added to the squad as cover for Apatu.

While Whanganui have hinted they want a challenge later in the season Davies said Whanganui are unlikely to be able to field a team so if Eastern win on Saturday they will lock the cup away for the third consecutive summer.

The full Tennis Eastern squad for Saturday's fixture which begins at 9am at the Pukekura club:
Men: Rynold Timothy, Rudi Statkus, Luke Donovan, Craig Giddy, Jonathan Fall, River Apatu, Jac Wardrope, Hunter Every.
Women: Olivia Addis, Jane Wyllie, Alex Cave, Sophie Ward, Roisin Dinan, Abby Oliver, Stacey Margerison.