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NZ tennis needs regional slant: ITF boss

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/01/2017 Angelo Risso

The man charged with developing international tennis says the key for the sport's growth in New Zealand is a more regional approach.

International Tennis Federation chief David Haggerty touched down in Auckland on Wednesday for meetings on his way to the Australian Open.

The former US Tennis Association boss, who has been in the top job since September 2015, told NZ Newswire he was encouraged by recent moves to improve Kiwi tennis.

With only two players currently in the top 1000 of both the ATP and WTA singles, Tennis New Zealand has made a concerted effort to boost the sport locally.

Their long-term goal is to produce players in the global top 150, having increased investment in children's programmes and more targeted elite pathways.

The ASB Classic also goes from strength to strength as New Zealand's premier tournament.

But for the organisation's goal to be realised, Haggerty said Kiwi tennis would need to look beyond its borders towards greater collaboration.

This had already begun to take place, with up to 70 Kiwis currently working their way through the US college system on sports scholarships.

Several elite young players also spend six weeks each year playing tournaments in Amsterdam.

"It's difficult to have all the playing opportunities you need in your country, and some of the things are international competitions," Haggerty said.

At the administrative level, former Nick Kyrgios coach and two-time Kiwi champion Simon Rea was appointed high performance director in December.

Chief executive Steve Johns will also make way next month for a yet-unnamed replacement.

Haggerty said the two new appointments would need to stick with the organisation's five-year plan, rather than chopping and changing prematurely.

"That's the most important thing I'd reinforce here, stay true to your values, give it time and don't change if it doesn't have immediate success."

Haggerty also said he'd like to see the Davis Cup, for which New Zealand will play in India next month, have a World Cup-style fixed final.

Playing over two days instead of three, playing three-set matches and changing tournament dates are also on the cards, with a proposal due to the ITF in August.

"Life is compromise (but) the most important thing is that we make changes that are positive, that make sense," Haggerty said.

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