Tennis: Erakovic keeping fingers crossed for Olympic selection

By Steve Deane

Marina Erakovic. Photo / AP.
Marina Erakovic. Photo / AP.

Her results over a gruelling 52-week season qualify her to go. The event will be on her favoured surface at a venue she loves. The field will be whittled down because only one player from each country can enter. She thinks she has a good chance of doing well. Who knows, she might even medal. And she's desperate to go.

But Marina Erakovic will only go to the London Olympics if her nomination is approved by a NZOC selection panel. That panel - NZOC president Kereyn Smith, secretary general Mike Smith and board member Simon Wickham - will announce its decision on Friday.

Erakovic crossed one hurdle over the weekend, with the International Tennis Federation confirming her selection. That had been in doubt because of a ban resulting from New Zealand's failure to fulfil a Federation Cup tie in 2011.

Erakovic was injured for that tie, and tennis New Zealand successfully argued that she had always been available for her country and received a dispensation for London.

The final hurdle she faces is to convince the NZOC she is capable of finishing inside the top 16 - the body's criterion for all athletes. That battle is being fought by New Zealand Tennis on Erakovic's behalf.

Having submitted an application for her selection, NZT asked for an extension on the timeframe for the decision to enable it to supply more information to bolster her case.

It is unclear how to read that situation, however it does not suggest Erakovic's selection is viewed as straightforward.

Speaking from Eastbourne in England where she is playing her final warm-up tournament before Wimbledon, Erakovic said she could do little now but wait.

"It is out of my hands," she said.

"Obviously it would be great if I could go. This time around it is on the grass at Wimbledon and that will never happen again in my career. I'm really hoping that I do get selected. All I can do is sit and keep my fingers crossed.

"I love the grass and I play well on it. It would be a great, great chance for me. I'd really like to go. On a scale of one to 10 it is 10."

Ranked 46 in the world after two stellar years on tour, she has fulfilled all criteria bar the NZOC's somewhat arbitrary "top 16 finish" policy.

"I definitely think I deserve to go. I've had some really good results in the last year or so, I've made a huge jump in my ranking over the last two years. I have been working really hard and training hard. This is my job. I put my all into it and I definitely feel like, if I get opportunities, I'd like to grab then."

Former tennis pro Brenda Perry, a long time Erakovic ally, said it would be wrong to exclude her.

"I really believe Marina has earned the right to be a member of the Olympic team," Perry said. "It would be a huge blow for her, for tennis in New Zealand and for women's sport in general if the NZOC did not include her when she has qualified via international criteria in a truly international and highly-competitive sport."

While she would privately have hopes of at least justifying the NZOC criteria by winning through two rounds of the 64-player draw, Erakovic was not about to declare herself a medal prospect.

"I can't say that. I never know what is going to happen. I know I can play very good tennis on grass and I believe in myself and my talent. I can't say 'hey, if I play I am going to get a medal'. But if I go I have a chance - the same as any other player in the draw."

- NZ Herald

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