Centre’s big event starts up

Tournament director Tony Knappett

Tournament director Tony Knappett

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Former world No. 1 singles and doubles players are among a high-class entry for the North West Challenge as international wheelchair tennis returns to South Ribble Tennis Centre today.

The first British world ranking event of 2015, the North West Challenge is now in its ninth year.

It is sanctioned as an ITF 3 Series tournament for the third successive year and is supported by the Tennis Foundation and sponsored by TBS Sports.

This year’s tournament welcomes 53 players from 11 different countries, with British No.3 and two-time Paralympian David Phillipson heading the home entry in the men’s singles.

Phillipson’s chief opposition includes 2006 ITF World Champion Michael Jeremiasz of France who, along with Austria’s Martin Legner, is also a former world No.1 doubles player.

Jeremiasz, a men’s doubles gold medallist at the Beijing Paralympics heads a French contingent that also includes Yoann Quilliou, the 2014 North West Challenge runner-up.

Meanwhile, Ed Holt, a member of Great Britain’s World Team Cup bronze-medal winning team along with Phillipson in 2014, boosts the home entry.

In the women’s draw London 2012 Paralympian and British No.3 Louise Hunt will bid to go one better than her runners-up spot in the women’s singles in 2014.

Hunt, a former North West Challenge singles and doubles champion, and world junior No.2 Luz Esperanza Merry, head the home entry in the women’s singles, which also includes Lancashire’s Helen Bond.

Hunt, Merry and Bond’s overseas opposition includes Chile’s Macarena Cabrillana and Maria Diaz, French trio Emilie Chene, Emmanuelle Morch and Christine Schoenn and the Netherlands’ former world junior No.1 Diede de Groot.

Another former world No.1 singles and doubles player heads the entries for the quad singles as Israel’s Shraga Weinberg makes his first visit to South Ribble Tennis Centre.

Tournament director and former Great Britain World Team Cup player Tony Knappett is set to contest the men’s singles.

He said: “This North West challenge continues to grow in prestige and reach every year and we are delighted to welcome players from South America, as well as former world No.1 players.”