Top Kiwi junior angers officials with cup snub
NEW Zealand will enter next month’s Fed Cup without their most promising young player, Valentina Ivanov, who has made herself unavailable, despite considerable funding going her way.
To make matters worse, US college Georgia Tech have refused to release Paige Hourigan for the tournament, which takes place in Bahrain next month.
Ivanov, who is based in Sydney, has been a Tennis NZ targeted athlete since 2014, when she was aged 12, and she has benefitted from a considerable amount of funding.
Last year she went to Europe for an extended period of time, which Tennis NZ paid for. She also went to Egypt and to South Carolina for a training block.
Ivanov was then supported and funded to get to Asia through October-November.
She has informed Tennis NZ that she doesn’t want to play in the Fed Cup next month, so Erin Routliffe, Jade Lewis, Katherine Westbury and Emily Fanning have been selected.
Without the injured Marina Erakovic or Hourigan, Ivanov would have been an important member of the team.
Tennis NZ CEO Julie Paterson said they expected someone who they’d put so much support and resources into would make herself available to play for the country.
‘‘We were really disappointed that she chose not to,’’ Paterson said.
‘‘We haven’t really had a response about why not and I guess that makes it a little more puzzling from our perspective.
‘‘We have invested a lot of time, energy and resource into Valentina over the last 12 months and we have an expectation that part of that investment would be that the return from the player is to make themselves available for national teams and tournaments, if required.’’
Ivanov hasn’t played in New Zealand since 2015 and it was hoped that she’d come back late last year to play in the NZ Nationals. However, she chose to stay in Australia and train with Tennis NZ coach Marcel Vos.
‘‘We’ve been flexible around the national competition. We really wanted Valentina to compete in the national champs, but it didn’t suit her schedule and what she was doing at the time.
‘‘We tried to be reasonable about that, but from a representative perspective and national teams, that’s a non-negotiable.
‘‘If you’re going to get support from Tennis NZ, then we really think that there needs to be some commitment and return back to New Zealand.’’
Valentina’s father Sergey Ivanov said the reason why she’s not playing the Fed Cup was because they didn’t think the 16-year-old was ready to play at that level yet.
‘‘For the last year she was suffering lots of different things,’’ Sergey said.
‘‘She started growing fast and because of this she had some common problems, some injuries and she didn’t play for a long time.
‘‘She lost a lot of ranking points and to jump into the next level and play women’s tennis would be difficult for her body.
‘‘It would be better if it was slowed down and she was allowed to adjust to a new environment. So she’ll play the (Junior) Australian Open and then it will be a clearer picture.’’
As for Hourigan, TNZ high performance director Simon Rea Rea said he hoped Georgia Tech would have allowed her to represent her country.
‘‘She’s shattered and so are we, because she represented us strongly last year and we believe she’s a big part of our Fed Cup future.’’
Meanwhile, the Davis Cup men’s team for next month’s tie against China has also been named.
No 1 ranked singles player Rubin Statham is joined by doubles specialists Michael Venus, Marcus Daniell and Artem Sitak. WITH another ASB Classic done, Karl Budge quickly turns his attentions to the 2019 tournament and how to make it better.
While the men’s event this year was full of big name players or exciting youngsters, the women’s tournament was heavily dependent on Caroline Wozniacki or Agnieszka Radwanska going deep in the draw.
Thankfully for Budge that happened, but he remains hamstrung by it being an International level WTA event and the rule that they can have only one top 10 player.
For this year he signed up Wozniacki early, so had to tell Venus Williams she couldn’t come back.
So the logical step is for the tournament to move up to a WTA Premier event, although that does mean there’s a significant jump in the prizemoney the tournament has to pay out from around $340,000 to $950,000.
‘‘That’s a conversation we want to have,’’ Budge said after the men’s final.
‘‘The restrictions of only having one top-10 player makes our lives harder.
‘‘I could probably sign Caroline Wozniacki next week, but that makes our life more challenging if we do that.
‘‘What happens for the rest of the year? We’ve now played our card and we’ve got to wait to see where everyone else finishes in the rankings before we know what we can do.
‘‘I’d like to see what we can do on the women’s side and if we can get a slightly higher tiered tournament.’’
As for the men’s event, this one was built around the next generation of players. However, by the time the tournament got to the semifinals, there were only the veterans left.
Even so, there were some young players out there who are sure to be superstars.
‘‘Every one of those players we brought out rewarded us this year and backed up our investment in them,’’ Budge said.
‘‘I was impressed with Denis Shapovalov before he arrived and I’m even more so now. It’s little things like thanking the player services staff before he left.’’
ASB Classic director Dale Budge.