The one who got away: Norrie’s success haunts Tennis NZ
The ‘next Andy Murray’ should be representing New Zealand.
History is being rewritten by an excited UK media about their new tennis star Cameron Norrie, while New Zealand rues a great talent getting away.
The 22-year-old Norrie came through qualifying and made it into the second round at the US Open last week.
He won an ATP Challenger tournament in Binghamton, USA in July and has been billed as Britain’s next Andy Murray.
UK newspaper the Telegraph referred to him as a ‘young Scot’ last week.
He is currently ranked 225 in the world, but everything is pointing towards him breaking into the top 100 next year.
However, while he’s being held up as a shining light for British tennis, he’s also an example of what was a failed New Zealand tennis system.
Norrie and his family moved from South Africa to New Zealand when he was a toddler and up until 2013 he played as a Kiwi.
He made it to 10 in the world as a junior and it looked as if New Zealand finally had a male player to get excited about in singles since the days of Brett Steven.
However, midway through 2013 at the age of 17, Norrie switched to Britain, thanks to his parents being born in the UK.
While some in New Zealand celebrate Norrie’s success, there are others who should be hanging their heads in shame.
While Norrie’s talents were spotted at an early age when living in New Zealand by former Davis Cup captain James Greenhalgh, who runs the Auckland Tennis Academy, he was largely ignored by Tennis NZ.
He only got a few thousand dollars of financial help by Tennis NZ and back in 2013 his mother, Helen Norrie, told Sunday News that there was never much attention that went his way.
‘‘He was unlucky,’’ she said at the time. ’’They weren’t focused on juniors when he was coming through, they were focused on Rubin Statham and the Davis Cup players.’’
Norrie’s parents forked out themselves to fund his trips overseas and it was a no brainer that when Britain came knocking, with their deep pockets, that he switched nations.
‘‘Cameron got a bit of money (from Tennis NZ), but not much, and basically we’ve done this by ourselves with Tennis Auckland backing us,’’ Helen said.
No one could blame Norrie for the decision he made, however New Zealand not only lost out on a great young player, it also sent out a signal to other promising players that if you want to get anywhere in tennis, get yourself a different passport.
Back in 2013, Norrie played at the Junior Australian Open for New Zealand and after a good first round win, took on Nick Kyrgios on show court three at Melbourne Park.
He lost 6-3 6-1, but there was no sense from him that he was happy just to have got so far, an attitude there’s been from too many young New Zealand players.
Norrie was furious with himself and wanted to learn all he could from the experience.
‘‘I didn’t hit many balls in and I could have played better,’’ he said after that match. ’’I didn’t take my chances.
‘‘It was a good experience and I learnt a lot, but I served really badly and couldn’t construct the points, but I’ll take a lot from this.’’
Fortunately for Norrie he did, but unfortunately for Tennis NZ they didn’t. Fast forward four years and you’d hope Tennis NZ wouldn’t make the same mistake again, even though there still isn’t a lot of money available.
While some of the people involved in Tennis NZ are still there, Simon Rea is now on board as high performance director.
Hopefully there’s a clearer pathway for junior players and they can see that you can climb the rankings and have success while playing for New Zealand.
In the meantime, while New Zealand tennis fans wait for another top player, we can continue watching Norrie with mixed emotions.