The one who got away: Nor­rie’s suc­cess haunts Ten­nis NZ

The ‘next Andy Mur­ray’ should be rep­re­sent­ing New Zealand.

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT -

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.

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