The future of Kiwi tennis is coming to Queenstown for an intense build-up to next month’s Australian Open junior tournament.
Queenstown-based coach Lan Bale is bringing five of the country’s best young male prospects together for a week-long camp from January 2-9.
With Kiwi tennis in the doldrums, Bale – a Davis Cup selector – is in no mood for mucking around.
“I want to really sort these guys out. It’s not a fun week in Queenstown – it’s a work week.”
Bale plans to drill his young charges twice daily on court at the Queenstown Tennis Club in the Gardens and twice daily off court.
He’s enlisting local fitness trainer Braden Lee to oversee brutal fitness sessions.
“Some of these out-of-towners are going to learn about the hills around Queenstown,” Bale warns.
All five youngsters are inside the world’s top 150 juniors, with 17-year-old Queenstowner Ben McLachlan leading at 68.
The others are Ben’s older brother Riki – no longer a junior after starting a college tennis scholarship in California – Hamilton’s Jaden Grinter, Canterbury’s Barrett Franks and Aucklander Adam Lee.
Bale has high hopes.
“This present crop of kids – that’s our future.”
Let’s hope so. The under-performing Davis Cup team copped a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of lowly-ranked Phillipines in September.
That drew stinging criticism from former Kiwi tennis great Onny Parun, who described it as the worst period in New Zealand tennis history.
Since then Davis Cup captain James Greenhalgh has been dumped, though Bale says he didn’t deserve it.
“I think James did a pretty good job with what he had to work with.”
Bale’s advice to an under-fire Tennis NZ is to invest more in young Kiwi players at college level in the United States.
“A lot more attention needs to be paid to kids at college,” he says.
“When they have three months off in summer, Tennis NZ needs to look at options for providing them a coach to travel with to go and play pro tournaments because they’re going to be our future.”
The chances of a Kiwi going straight from being based in NZ to the ATP pro tour is slim, Bale says.
“Even Brett Steven didn’t do that. That would be a freaky kid. We really need to embrace the kids at college and help them make the most of that as a training ground.”
He’s loathe to make predictions for the Australian Open juniors, saying he wouldn’t be surprised if his young charges made the semis or lost in the first round.
“Depends on the draw, depends on the day.”
Tennis NZ is chipping in $1000 for the camp.