By Rachel Tiffen
Steven Downs was a child star picked to put New Zealand tennis back on the map.
At 17, he and James Greenhalgh won junior doubles at Wimbledon, but that is where the glory ends.
“It got hard and lonely,” Downs says. “We thought we'd do pretty well. We did okay, we never really cracked through then sort of set out on our own without coaches and then it became hard.
“It's really hard here, my advice would be get overseas.”
But New Zealand Tennis chief executive Steve Johns says we just need to breed our juniors tougher.
“At the moment we've got a number of top juniors who, in New Zealand, are what I call the L&P syndrome - World Famous in New Zealand – and unfortunately they, some of them, get a bit ahead of themselves in terms of their ability and we need to make sure that we're not setting our juniors up to fail on the international circuit,” says Johns.
He says without the hunger common to players such as Chris Lewis and Brett Steven they won't succeed.
As the tennis season kicks off 40,000 people are taking to courts around New Zealand and our junior programmes are booming but, as our best players struggle to crack the top 300, SPARC has only allocated the sport $100,000 in high performance funding.
Johns admits money's tight and says bringing in players and coaches from abroad may be the answer.
source: newshub archive