College sport: Westlake champ taking on world

By Terry Maddaford

After a clean sweep of Auckland school titles, the reluctant starter eyes tennis offers from US universities.

Danielle Feneridis' next goal is to play the ASB Classic for the first time. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Danielle Feneridis' next goal is to play the ASB Classic for the first time. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Missing the chance to play on the new covered courts at Westlake GHS is Danielle Feneridis' only regret as she prepares for her last weeks at the school she has represented at tennis since her Year 9 days when they were in the tough Auckland SS competition's third grade.

The curtain came down on Feneridis' five-year stint in the school's top team when she led them into Saturday's A1 final - a contest they lost 8-1 to high-flying St Kentigern. But Feneridis is convinced the spanking new facility will lead to a boom in tennis at the North Shore school.

"It was disappointing [to lose] but I'm proud to have been captain of the team who reached the A1 final for the first time," said Feneridis in looking back on her time in the school's team. "Playing just one set is hard, but I don't mind as it was something completely different to what we usually play."

COLLEGE SPORT RESULTS

Feneridis, who is now contemplating the next step in her career on and off the court, leaves school tennis with her head held high after scooping a clean sweep of Auckland champion-of-champions titles, having won junior, intermediate and senior (twice) singles crowns.

Born in Auckland, and after her early schooling at Murrays Bay Primary and Intermediate, Feneridis, 17, followed older brother Alex in heading to Westlake rather than Rangitoto College.

Yet, for all her success, she admits she was a reluctant starter.

"My mother played at Browns Bay, and while I watched her, I didn't want to play," she said. "It was not until I was 9 that I started getting coaching and at 10 or 11 I played my first tournaments.

"Tennis is very demanding. It takes a lot of time."

From the Browns Bay club she switched to Mairangi Bay, following an earlier coach, before heading to the North Harbour Tennis Centre at Albany where for the past 15 or so months she has been coached by former New Zealand Davis Cup player, Jeff Simpson.

"She is an attacking baseline player, but like most of the kids here, she needs the opportunity to take her game further," said Simpson. "It is the old adage of needing to chalk up 10,000 hours on the practice court, which is hard here. Like them all, Danielle needs to learn how to construct points. You can't skip any of the processes needed to reach the top."

Now with her own car, she is not so dependent on mum and dad having to get her to training.

From a keen sporting family, Danielle has closely followed her brother's footballing career at Auckland City, which has included appearances at Fifa's Club World Cup and this year's London Olympics.

But she has not been a stay-at-home either. Since her first trip to Australia in the New Zealand under-12 team, Feneridis has been very much in the "have racket, will travel" mould, playing in Malaysia, India, New Caledonia and on further transtasman crossings. Earlier this year she won the singles and doubles in the Air Pacific Open Junior Championships in Fiji.

At its highest point, her ITF ranking reached 219.

With her school days numbered, she is considering a number of attractive offers from American Universities.

"I am looking at them seriously and am about to put together a tennis video to send to them. I have a number of friends at colleges in the States. They love it, and while it will be hard leaving New Zealand, I want to do what we feel is best both for my education and tennis career. Initially at least, my focus will be on getting a degree, but if the opportunity to play on the WTA or any other tour came up I would love to take it."

In the more immediate future, Danielle has her sights set on what she hopes will be a first chance to play the ASB Classic. Her father, Costa, is philosophical about just where his daughter's career might be heading.

"There have been offers from half a dozen decent universities in the States - all top division one schools," he said.

"As far as tennis goes, you have to remember there are 20,000 players out there trying to get just one WTA point.

"But, as we saw with the way Ryan Nelsen gutted it out, there can be rewards both from a sporting and educational point of view."

For college sport results go to

http://tinyurl.com/collegesport

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 19 Apr 2014 20:04:02 Processing Time: 497ms