Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Tennis player's plea for money

Finn Tearney wants to pay for more coaching. Photo / Dean Purcell
Finn Tearney wants to pay for more coaching. Photo / Dean Purcell

New Zealand's top men's tennis player is resorting to crowd funding to help continue his climb up the world rankings.

Finn Tearney, who became Kiwi No 1 in November after soaring an impressive 1200 places up the world rankings across the previous 12 months, is intending to start a Give A Little page this month, looking for donations from supporters.

Despite his status as the country's top player, world No 363 Tearney receives no financial support from Tennis New Zealand.

It's an unfortunate situation, with no obvious solution. Tennis NZ receive little funding, as High Performance Sport New Zealand's criteria tend to emphasise achievement in non-global sports. The national tennis body has chosen to limit their investment in players to a select group of promising juniors.

One of these juniors was Rosie Cheng, who played in ASB Classic qualifying yesterday, though it's understood the 17-year-old has been cut from the elite group after undisclosed issues between her and Tennis NZ.

The other elite targeted athletes last year were 15-year-olds Finn Reynolds and Macsen Sisam, and 14-year-old Valentina Ivanov.

Beyond that, Tennis NZ also pay players to participate in the Davis Cup. Tearney has yet to play at that level, with Rubin Statham and Michael Venus the established singles players, and Artem Sitak and Marcus Daniell the preferred doubles pair.

Tennis NZ's strategy, unveiled in December 2013, was a change of tack. In the five years before that, the national body had invested more than $2 million in 40 to 50 players of all ages, attempting to produce some who could compete on the world stage.

That scattered approach didn't really work and Tennis NZ thought they were justified in trying a different method. But that makes it difficult for Tearney, caught in a classic Catch-22 situation. The only way he can lift his ranking into the top 200 where it's possible to make a decent living is to play more tournaments and get access to regular coaching, which requires money he doesn't really have.

It's much harder to try and coach yourself and assess things by yourself out on tour.
Tennis coach William Ward

Tearney's impressive 2015 season, during which he reached four Futures finals, winning one and twice beating top 200 players, took him through Australia as well as to Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Canada and the US.

"It's hard for guys like Finn," says former New Zealand Davis Cup representative William Ward, who coaches Tearney and Venus on a part-time basis.

"When I see them here, working with them and giving feedback on a day-to-day basis, they can reach a new level. It's much harder to try and coach yourself and assess things by yourself out on tour."

Tearney still has an outside chance of a welcome ASB Classic payday, if he is awarded one of two remaining wildcards for the tournament. Playing in the first round at the event nets $6850.

- Herald on Sunday

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