Tennis: Kiwis should play their way to Open, says Parun

By Steve Deane

Former champion slams management and coaches for state of NZ men's game.

Rubin Statham. Photo / John Borren
Rubin Statham. Photo / John Borren

The Auckland men's tennis open's most successful New Zealand player, three-time winner Onny Parun, has backed the decision not to award main draw wildcards to local players.

The decision to eschew the practice of giving Kiwis a leg up - yet to be fully confirmed as there is still one wildcard to be allocated by Heineken Open director Karl Budge - means the likes of Daniel King-Turner and Rubin Statham will have to win through qualifying if they are to grace centre court at the 2013 event.

Given the potential ranking points and payday on offer for this country's struggling pros, the decision is contentious. Parun, who won the event three times during the 1970s and rose to 19 in the world during a stellar 13-year career, insisted players should only get into the main draw on merit.

"It's a good thing," he said. "They've got to earn their way don't they? That's what it's all about.

"It's a sad commentary on our state of play unfortunately ...

"In the last 10 years I think one player has won one round. Marina [Erakovic] is the only one who has won rounds and she gets in there legitimately."

Parun also rubbished suggestions breaking into the top tier of the modern game had become too tough for New Zealanders.

"Everybody has got their own chance in life," he said. "I left New Zealand as the second junior in New Zealand, probably ranked about two million in the world, and I made my way through my own effort. To say that it is so hard and all that is absolute rubbish."

Parun was also unimpressed with the marketing fluff that describes this year's field as the best assembled in Auckland. The 1969 tournament was stacked with Grand Slam winners. Rod Laver - who would that year complete his second grand slam at Wimbledon - lost in the final to Tony Roche.

"That was a pretty hot field. And in the women's side you had Billy Jean King and Evonne Goolagong - multiple Grand Slam winners there too. I don't think anything will beat 1969. It was by far the best."

Back then the top Kiwi players could also hold their own, as the efforts of the likes of Parun and two-time finalist Brian Fairlie showed.

Parun is dismayed by the state of the men's game today. He lays the blame squarely at the feet of the sport's administrators and coaches.

"The last 10 years have probably been the worst 10 years in the history of New Zealand tennis. The management and board is filled with people who've never played tennis and they don't know how to fix the problem."

Part of the problem was that New Zealand had attempted to follow the European model and churn out baseline players.

"We've only had successful players when we've had all-court players. New Zealand tennis management don't have the tennis intellect or knowledge to change this around."

- NZ Herald

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