Kiwi tennis remains in the shadows in 2012

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 29/12/2012
Heineken Open
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Doubles champions Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya of Austria.

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This was another year where tennis only really existed in this country for a fortnight.

The annual ASB Classic and Heineken Open look like they might be nice to watch from the hospitality tables, but they might as well be played on Mars for all the impact New Zealand players have on them. At least in an on-court sense.

Off it, Sacha Jones created the only real tennis news story of 2012, by declaring the Classic would be the last time she played tennis as a New Zealander.

She'd instead make use of having an Australian parent and passport and play as an Aussie, once her run at the Classic ended.

Having been awarded a wildcard into the main draw, courtesy of that New Zealand-ness, the then Kiwi No 2 promptly lost to Britain's Elena Baltacha in the first round and was condemned from here to Kingdom Come.

The first week of January is a slow one for news and rather than anonymously slipping away to her next tournament, in Hobart, the 22-year-old Jones left with her ears ringing to the tune of an outraged talkback nation.

It was all a bit unnecessary, but the saddest part is that it was the only time all year when anyone gave a hoot about a New Zealand tennis player. For the record, Jones will finish 2012 with a career-high singles ranking of 150.

Marina Erakovic plugged away, quietly achieving career-best rankings as well. The 24-year-old is now 66th in singles and 53rd in doubles, but reached 39 and 42 earlier in the year.

It was all out-of-sight, out-of-mind though and Erakovic again failed to make any impression at the Grand Slam events lay people tend to follow.

Mind you, her ranking and achievements look positively amazing when judged against our best men's players. In case you didn't know, Rubin Statham is this country's top-ranked player, at 358 in the world.

It was another humbling year for the Davis Cup team, too, with losses to Uzbekistan, India and Chinese-Taipei condemning New Zealand to Group II of the Asia/Oceania zone.

Their reward is a trip to Beirut, where they'll meet Lebanon in a February 1-3 tie. Survive that and the team can look forward to playing Pakistan in Pakistan.

At junior level, there doesn't appear to be a huge amount of talent coming through, with just Cameron Norrie and Emily Fanning ranked inside the world's top-100. 

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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