Final shot: Kiwi semi-pro tennis player Dianne Hollands winning her semi-final at the Queenstown Open on Saturday
A part-time pro tennis player is using Queenstown as a springboard for a final tilt at the professional tour.
Southlander Dianne Hol-lands, ranked 960 in the world, played the Queens-town Open last week.
The 28-year old is now off to Australia to begin her last push at making it as a pro.
Hollands beat top local player Felicity Oxnevad in her Queenstown semi-final.
The final against Dune-din’s Libby Scott – who beat local Suma Ito-Sheehan in the other semi – was canned because of rain on Sunday.
But Hollands, on the comeback trail after pro-longed illness, says it was just great to be hitting balls and in
Queenstown with people like Oxnevad and club coach Mark Milburn who both mentored her when she was a junior.
Till two weeks ago, she hadn’t played tennis in nine months because of illness.
“I thought I was done – I didn’t think I was going to play again,” Hollands says, sitting in the Queenstown Tennis Club rooms.
Her decision to give things one last crack came after she finally pinned down what was making her sick – thyroid medication side-effects. It left her lethargic and affected her ability to think clearly. She’s changed treatment and her problems are now gone.
Hollands, who went to the University of Arizona on a tennis scholarship, says her subsequent five years on the women’s tour were only as a “semi-pro” because of her illness and costs.
Now, an excited Hollands says: “I’ve never done it full-on for a whole year. But this year – 2012 baby – is when I’m going to. I know it’s late but I’ve got no injuries, my illness is under control and there’s nothing stopping me.”
Hollands decided to play in Queenstown after friend and Dunedin coach Jeff Elliotte asked her to be his doubles partner. She was given special dispensation to play the men’s section by tournament organisers.
Next stop is two $25,000 tournaments in Australia, starting this weekend.
Hollands’ goal is to make the top 200 where players can qualify for grand slams.
Her previous best is near the top 500 but she says she was only at about 60 per cent. She’s taking inspiration from a close Federation Cup match for New Zealand against Australia’s Jelena Dokic in 2009, weeks after Dokic made the Australian Open quarter-finals.
Hollands lost 6-4 6-4 but had leads in both sets.
“If I could play matches like that every day, I’d be happy.”
Hollands, who tours with boyfriend and coach Adam Beretta, of Auckland, says they do it on the cheap.
No plush hotels, restaurants or first-class airfares - she stays in tents, uses a gas cooker for meals and drives to tournaments – often in the van she sleeps in.
“You have to pay your dues. It’s exciting, I find it fun – the grind.
“I have friends who’ve got degrees, mortgages, children – got things sorted – and sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy.
“I should probably be doing the same thing but all my friends tell me ‘No, don’t be a slave to the rat race’. As a woman, there’s pressure to settle down, have a family and stop galavanting, sleeping in tents and living like a gypsy.
So I do feel those expectations and I’m trying to fight them at the moment.”
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