Tennis NZ is to take a less-is-more approach to the eternal challenge of getting more players to the top, while it can no longer wait for High Performance Sport NZ to have a change of attitude on funding.
Marina Erakovic has proved to be the exception to Tennis NZ's failed previous policy on how to create world-class players, so a scattergun philosophy of handing out money to a group of players to do with as they wish is gone, and a more focused approach to just a handful of youngsters is in.
"We're not just pumping money out to players without any performance requirements around it," said Tennis NZ chairman David Patterson.
"We sent four juniors [Paige Hourigan, Alex Klintcharov, Kyle Butters and William Matheson - all 15] to Holland for a three-month stint, which was fully funded by Tennis NZ.
"We're trying to put the money into a smaller group of players at the top and make a bigger investment in them. We're deliberately channelling down the range of people to whom we're giving money."
That trip to Holland cost Tennis NZ $35,000, while the federation has just $120,000 of discretionary funding to put into high performance at a direct athlete level.
But it is looking to raise another $400,000 a year from sponsorship and the private sector to put into the few players it wants to invest in.
"The key to success seems to be to have a coach on the road with these kids, and having them offshore," Patterson said.
"So we need to have a select group, put them out there and be able to fund them, and give them some time to be able to develop.
"It's not easy and we don't have a men's player on the horizon in the top 200 to invest in among the current crop of 20-plus-year-olds on the tour."
While tennis received $335,500 last year from Sport NZ for the grassroots level, it has been a bugbear in the tennis community that the sport doesn't get any high-performance investment.
Tennis was the only sport at the Olympics that had a New Zealand competitor (Erakovic) who didn't receive funding over the last four-year cycle, while money was given to basketball, diving, archery, badminton, gymnastics, judo, wrestling, synchronised swimming and volleyball, despite none of these sports having a New Zealand presence in London.
Tennis NZ continues to argue its case for funding, but Patterson says it can no longer wait for HPSNZ to change its mind.
"Waiting for High Performance Sport NZ to deliver would not be the solution," he said.
"We are very grateful for quite significantly increased investment that Sport NZ is putting into the game on a game development basis.
"The first step for high performance tennis funding in New Zealand is for tennis to set up systems and create a culture that is about performing at the international level.
"If we do that and we can demonstrate a track record of success, then there may be a possibility at some future time that we can credibly go to the high performance arm of Sport NZ and ask for investment, but we're not at that stage yet. We've got a bit to go yet in getting our own house in order and that's where our focus needs to be.
"It needs to be on funding the high performance end of tennis from private sector sponsorship and private donations.
"We can't wait for a change in policy at Sport NZ. We have gone from a stage where we paid out money to players on the basis of their rankings and they could do what they wanted with that.
"There were no performance standards around that money, but we've gone from that to a system where we've got a national coach in Marcel Vos, we're going to pick horses and each player that we invest in is going to have an individual plan and performance criteria around it.
"If they meet that criteria they can expect continued investment, if they don't then we won't.
"So there will be a smaller group of players with more focused money, because that's what it takes to succeed."
- © Fairfax NZ News