Mitchell takes up the challenge



By samuel darroch

NO locals remain in the Traralgon ATP Challenger field, but Queenslander Ben Mitchell is the next best thing.

The back-to-back Traralgon Pro-Tour winner breezed through Tuesday’s first round and feels right at home in the Latrobe Valley.

“I just really enjoy playing here, I always seem to play well here and everyone seems to get behind me, I feel like a local out here,” Mitchell said.

“Small country town in Australia, I really like the feel around the place and everyone is so friendly, so I definitely feel at home.”

The seventh seed began his Challenger campaign with a straight sets (6-4, 6-3) victory over Alex Bolt and showed glimpses of his best in a tidy performance.

Mitchell was never broken throughout the contest, but was forced to dig deep when serving at 15-40 up 3-2 in the second set.

An ace, followed by an unforced error from Bolt, brought the game to deuce, before a pair of imperious serves secured a 4-2 lead.

“I served really well, first serve percentage was really good, that helps big time,” Mitchell said.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter how bad you’re playing, if you’re serving well you can get out of matches.”

With dual Traralgon Pro-Tour wins to his name in 2011 and 2012, Mitchell said there was a sense of defending the title despite the tournament upgrade to Challenger status.

“It’s a bigger tournament than last year so it’s very tough, every match is tough out there including that one (against Bolt)… but I’m ready for the challenge,” he said.

Mitchell blitzed Darren Polkinghorne 6-2 6-2 yesterday to set up a quarter final showdown with second seed James Duckworth tomorrow.

The Bank of Melbourne AMT prize money tournament also kicked off on Tuesday, featuring a number of locals including David Hough and Tristan Salerno.

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The tournament action continues today at Traralgon Tennis complex with finals to be played on Sunday.