Top Kiwi tennis junior Norrie defects to Britain

New Zealand's leading junior tennis player, ranked No 10 in the world, has defected to Great Britain due to lack of funding.

Auckland's Cameron Norrie is considered our best tennis prospect in years, but the 17-year-old played his first tournament as a Brit in Scotland last week.

Norrie qualifies for Britain through a parent being born in the UK, and follows Sacha Jones, who defected to Australia last year.

Tennis NZ says the switch of allegiances again highlights the lack of development funding for top players, with CEO Steve Johns saying he will again raise the issue with Sport New Zealand. Norrie went to the UK six weeks ago to trial with Britain's Lawn Tennis Association.

Their coaches deemed him good enough to be part of their development programme and he has automatically become the UK's top-ranked junior.

Norrie will receive wildcards into major tournaments, including Wimbledon, financial backing for international travel, a coach and access to world-class facilities at Britain's National Tennis Centre.

Johns said New Zealand couldn't compete Britain's funding."As it was when Sacha left us, these guys are out there wanting to make a career in tennis, and there is no way we're ever going to be able to match the resources of a Grand Slam nation," he said.

Norrie has been New Zealand's highest ranked junior since Marina Erakovic reached No 5 in 2005. The next best male Kiwi junior is Kyle Butters, ranked 209.

Johns said High Performance Sport NZ's funding policy was limited to athletes capable of podium finishes at Olympics or world championships.

"We're clearly not there yet," he said. "But who's to say Cameron wouldn't have been a future Olympics medallist for New Zealand."

A spokesperson for HPSNZ said: "Athletes and coaches do move around the world. We benefit when overseas athletes choose to live in New Zealand.

"Cameron has identified an opportunity for him and we wish him well in chasing his dream."

Sunday Star Times