A local teenager has been selected to be part of national squad which will travel to play in three tennis tournaments in Queensland later this year.
Kaleb Stevens from Ohaeawai will join the 20-strong Team 10nis NZ squad which will profile upcoming youth talent from across New Zealand at the two prestigious Rod Laver Queensland Junior Age Championships and the Churchie Junior Champs, and also take part in a two-day pre-tournament training camp at the Rod Laver Centre in Brisbane.
The squad - which also includes coaches from Whangarei, Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch - flies out on June 28 and returns on July 10. Stevens, aged 13, is among three players from Northland in the team. His Whangarei-based coach Peter Stenberg said the Australian trip was designed to show the players how good they were compared with their peers from both here and across the ditch.
Stenberg said to describe Stevens as enthusiastic about tennis risked being a major understatement.
"He's dead keen," said Stenberg. Having taken up tennis at 11, Stevens readily admits he is addicted to the game.
The Year 10 student from Kerikeri High trains in Whangarei on Wednesday nights with Stenberg (soon to be stepped up to twice a week to get up to speed for the Queensland trip), takes lessons with Kerikeri Tennis Club resident coach Carl Terizzi on Thursdays, plays interclub in Whangarei on Monday nights, and "as much as I can" against his KTC senior counterparts after school and on Saturday mornings.
"My idol is Rafael Nadal who I would love to meet one day.
"My favourite surface to play is hard court, and my favourite shot is forehand down the line."
Stevens recently had the opportunity to meet top pros from overseas - including Ivo Karlovic, Venus Williams, Lauren Davis, Marcos Baghdatis, Feliciano Lopez and Marcus Daniell - at the 2016 and 2017 ASB Classic tournaments.
"My biggest dream is to play at national level or even higher. I plan to play as many tournaments as possible over the next few years, both in New Zealand and abroad, to achieve this dream. One day I hope to go to the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon."