Gunnedah-coached Taya Powell took another step forward in her emerging tennis career when she won the women’s open singles at the prestigious Victorian Grasscourt championships at Wodonga at the weekend.

Gunnedah coach Dale Martin took a small squad of North West players to the border cities of Albury and Wodonga, where they played in the Margaret Smith Cup tournament, named after the tennis immortal, in Albury before crossing the border for the Victorian Grasscourts. 

Taya Powell, 17, headed the charge, winning the Victorian grasscourt open women’s singles championship at Wodonga Tennis Centre, where she triumphed in the final in a gruelling two-hour match with No. 2 seed Sahra Dennehy 6-4, 4-6. 13-11.

Sahra Dennehy is a former Armidale and North West singles champion now living at Tweeds Heads. 

Taya, a left-hander, is a member of the Gunnedah Tennis Club and although she lives in Tamworth, she has been coached by Gunnedah’s Dale Martin over the last four years, usually travelling three times each week from Tamworth for her coaching sessions.

In the semi-final at Wodonga, Taya edged out the No. 1 seed Laquisa Khan, from the North Coast, in a desperately close match, 3-6, 6-3, 10-7, squaring the ledger after her opponent had beaten her in last year’s final.

In the final, Taya wore down Sahra Dennehy, squeezing home 13-11 in the super tiebreaker third set.

Dale Martin, who has been coaching Taya since she was 12, said she was at the peak of her form at Wodonga.

“She’s one of those players who will find a way to win, no matter how hard the opposition,” he said. 

“She has talent and she has tenacity – you can’t put limits on anyone who has those two qualities.

“The further up the ladder you go, the tougher it gets. You don’t get anywhere in tennis unless you have the will and the drive.

“Taya played really well down in Victoria, she’s building more physicality into her game, which is now our main objective, to develop a weapon in her play. Her defensive skills are outstanding, but the way ahead is to build her game up to hit more winners.

“She’s small and she’s only 17 but she’s completely dedicated.”

At Wodonga, Taya also won the open mixed doubles title with Lachlan Vickery (Noosa Heads) at Wodonga and reached the final of the women’s doubles, with Aliyah Dwyer (Sydney).

The Wodonga triumph was the biggest win of Taya’s emerging career, though last July she won the NSW Country singles title, when she was only 16. 

She wasn’t the only North West regional winner at Wodonga.

Gunnedah’s Vitorio Sardinha linked up with Coffs Harbour’s Charlie Pade to win the men’s grasscourt doubles, in the final defeating the No. 1 seeds in a pulsating match, the two pairs splitting the first two sets in tiebreakers and then tipping out their opponents 10-6 in the super tiebreaker third set.  

In the lead-up-up to Wodonga, Taya Powell reached the final of the singles at the Margaret Smith Cup in Albury, beaten narrowly by Laquisa Khan. She also linked up with Gunnedah’s Aaron Osmond to reach the final of the open mixed.

Gunnnedah’s Vittorio Sardinha paired with Osmond to reach the semi-final of the open men’s doubles. It was Osmond’s last tournament before his return to the United States, where he studies and plays on the collegiate circuit, based at university in Arkansas.  

The Victorian titles, in open and age groups, drew entries from 360 players, including overseas contingents from Oceania (Pacific Islands). Japan and South Africa and contestants from all the eastern states. 

Taya Powell is about to start her final year of school and her goal is to win a scholarship to play on the United States collegiate tennis circuit, like Gunnedah’s Gabby O’Gorman, who graduated last year after five years at the Pennsylvania State University.

After a gruelling tennis schedule in the last few weeks, she could be forgiven for taking a break. But no, she’s off to play in a tournament at Kawana on the Gold Coast next weekend.

To order photos from this page click here