Contentious selection clouds Davis Cup tie

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2013
Matt Simpson
DEREK FLYNN/ Fairfax NZ
PLAYER: Matt Simpson.

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New Zealand's Davis Cup tie against Lebanon starts today in Albany where the home team is expected to win comfortably.

But controversy surrounds the team over the selection of a player who won't play in any live rubbers.

Matt Simpson was called into the team at late notice because Michael Venus pulled out to play in a couple of Challenger tournaments in Australia.

Simpson is ranked 1563 in the world and won just two of 12 matches last year, one against a 16-year-old Italian.

At the age of 28, there is no chance of Simpson making it as a successful tennis player, but he got the nod - and the funding that goes with selection - ahead of 22-year-old Logan Mackenzie (ranked 1179) and the country's most promising junior, Cameron Norrie.

Mackenzie said he was gutted at not only to missing out, because he believes he should have been selected ahead of Simpson, but also at the way he was treated by Tennis New Zealand.

He said it was left to him to chase up Tennis NZ to find out about selection and that he had been ignored by the national federation.

He is also unhappy that Tennis NZ chief executive Steve Johns sent him an email saying his ATP ranking didn't count for everything in selection.

"I tried to contact them after Michael pulled out and push my name forward and they just didn't bother to address me properly about it.

"They really brushed me off," Mackenzie said.

"I am just a young guy and I am trying to develop my game and here they are, shooting me down all of the time and giving me no answers, there was no justification and no transparency."

Dan King-Turner and Artem Sitak have been named to play singles today, while tomorrow King-Turner will team up with Marcus Daniell for the doubles.

So Simpson may only get to play in one of the dead rubbers on Sunday, if at all. But the bigger issue is that Tennis NZ now only gives funding to those playing in the Davis Cup.

Rubin Statham, who refused to play in this tie in protest at the way Tennis NZ runs its high performance programme, is believed to have earned $40,000 playing Davis Cup last year, but Johns doesn't feel money is being wasted by giving it to Simpson.

"The money that Matt will be earning through this tie is nothing like what we were talking about when discussing what Rubin earned," Johns said.

"We're not talking about a massive amount of money that could be going to another player.

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"I can see where people's concern is, but the different thing here is that Matt wasn't selected in the original team. The original team included Michael Venus and four weeks ago he decided to withdraw and play the Challengers.

"So a decision had to be made as to who we could bring in at short notice and Matt was in New Zealand and to some respect they went for the easy option."

Simpson's only previous experience in the Davis Cup was losing a dead rubber six years ago.

Fairfax NZ

- Stuff

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