The Northern Advocate

NZR places coaching on the agenda

One Russian player confirmed, another likely, but sponsor is committed to Classic

- Liam Napier


Russian women’s tennis player will compete at Auckland’s ASB Classic. World No 80 Anna Blinkova has entered January’s tournament, with another Russian Varvara Gracheva (94) the first alternate. She would gain main draw entry if if there are any withdrawal­s.

Blinkova was among the direct acceptance­s released by tournament director Nicolas Lamperin yesterday.

Reports earlier this year suggested that principal sponsor ASB Bank would consider taking a political stance by removing its branding from the tournament, if

Russian and Belarussia­n players were allowed to take to the court.

However, ASB is believed to have opted against a protest and the tournament will be business as usual.

In a joint statement released by ASB, Tennis Auckland and Tennis New Zealand in October, the bank confirmed its financial support for the tournament would remain regardless of Russian involvemen­t.

“Media reports this week have speculated about the involvemen­t of Russian or Belarusian players in the January 2023 event,” the statement read. “To be clear, the 2023 tournament will go ahead as planned with ASB’s full financial support.

“Under Women’s Tennis Associatio­n and Associatio­n of

Tennis Profession­als regulation­s tournament organisers must allow Russian and Belarusian players to enter the tournament if they are sufficient­ly well ranked.

“We understand Tennis Auckland and Tennis New Zealand are in a difficult position.

“There is no suggestion that ASB would withdraw its significan­t financial support for the tournament should Russian or Belarusian players compete.”

Yesterday, England’s Lawn Tennis Associatio­n was fined US$1 million by the ATP men’s profession­al tour for banning players from Russia and Belarus from its grasscourt events.

The governing body of British tennis banned the players from five Wimbledon warm-up tournament­s following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The ATP, which oversees men’s tennis outside of the Grand Slams, also warned the LTA it could lose its membership in the organisati­on if it repeats the ban.

“We stand by our original position on this matter, that unilateral decision-making by members of the ATP Tour threatens our ability to operate as a global sport,” the ATP said in a statement.

“We believe that the measures taken protect the long-term future of our game and its commitment to merit-based participat­ion, without discrimina­tion, for individual athletes. We have no further comment.”

The LTA said it “deeply disappoint­ed” with the tour’s action.

Feverish interest in the process to appoint the next All Blacks coach overshadow­ed Dame Patsy Reddy’s unveiling as New Zealand Rugby’s first female chairman yesterday, with chief executive Mark Robinson giving the strongest indication yet the national body will break tradition to make a coaching decision before next year’s World Cup.

Reddy does not assume the chairman role — after serving seven months on the board — from Stewart Mitchell until February but the former GovernorGe­neral was thrust straight into the furnace that is determinin­g the All Blacks coaching team beyond next year.

“We had a good discussion with the board yesterday. I know the executive team are really on top of the issue,” Reddy said as she fronted media for the first time since her announceme­nt as chairman.

“We’re comfortabl­e with the process. We recognise this is a really important time for us with the Rugby World Cup ahead next year. We’re all very focused on supporting our team through that tournament but we’ve got to look to the future so, believe me, we’re on it.

“Nobody here wants me to be selecting the All Blacks coach just yet. I don’t underestim­ate the challenges of me coming into this role and I’m not going to try and jump ahead.”

New Zealand Rugby has, traditiona­lly, waited until the World Cup juncture before opening up the All Blacks job but with Wales and England in the midst of head coaching changes, Robinson admitted the test rugby landscape is rapidly altering its perception of when appointmen­ts should be made.

“We are having a lot of discussion­s at the moment. We took the board through where we are at with that at this current time. We know there’s a lot going on in that market but we’re confident we’re having all the conversati­ons we need to have at this time,” Robinson said.

New Zealand Rugby is endeavouri­ng to speak with leading candidates in a bid to seek intentions and have the best pool of coaches contest the top job. That can only be achieved by making an appointmen­t before September.

 ?? Photo / Photosport ?? World No 80 Anna Blinkova has entered the ASB Classic.
Photo / Photosport World No 80 Anna Blinkova has entered the ASB Classic.
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 ?? ?? Dame Patsy Reddy
Dame Patsy Reddy

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