Seed cash dries up for unrated tennis juniors

DAVID LONG
Last updated 12:33 10/02/2013
emily fanning
HEADING OVERSEAS: Emily Fanning, ranked at 72 in the world junior rankings, is set to go to a US college.

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The Seed Foundation, an organisation set up to fund New Zealand's most promising tennis players, has stopped handing out money, because it can't find anyone good enough.

The independent foundation was launched in 2006 with the aim of providing significant funding for New Zealand players who show the potential to make it as successful professionals.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were poured into Marina Erakovic and Sacha Jones in Seed's early years and while it paid off for Erakovic, the money was wasted on Jones as she now plays for Australia.

In recent years money has been given out to a number of juniors but Seed chairman Alan Chester says it has stopped making contributions because there isn't anyone good enough to give money to.

"We were supporting Marina and Sacha to a significant extent and following on from that ASB Bank got behind us for two years on the condition that we support some younger players for a two-year period," Chester said.

"They gave us a $200,000 for that, so we supported Cameron Norrie, Emily Fanning, Anton Bettink, Sebastian Lavie, Kyle Butters and Katherine Westbury. That dried up in June last year and we haven't collected any funds since then.

"We also decided that this sort of funding was a Tennis NZ job, not Seed. We were formed to support the exceptional player, where it costs hundreds of thousands a year to be on the circuit.

"Presently, we don't see one at this stage. We have to be absolutely sure that the player has got the capabilities and for the last year we haven't seen anybody that can go all of the way.

"We don't see anyone we'd want to approach and say 'we want to do with you what we did with Marina and Sacha and get behind you so that your financial worries are taken care of while you're out on the circuit'."

The current Seed selectors are former Fed Cup captain David Lewis, ex-Tennis Canterbury CEO David Blackwell and Chester.

Norrie is the only male player who could justifiably feel like he was worthy of funding as he has a junior ranking of 41.

In the girls, there is Emily Fanning at 72 and the promising Paige Hourigan at 188, who has just turned 16.

The sad fact is that no player has any chance of making it from New Zealand unless they have wealthy parents or get money from Seed.

Norrie is coached by former Davis Cup captain James Greenhalgh, who believes his charge is an exceptional talent.

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"Cameron has had a successful junior career to date," Greenhalgh said.

"I believe Cameron is a gifted tennis player and is one of the strongest prospects Tennis NZ has got for the next few years.

"The more opportunities we can get for Cameron this year the better.

"If he was to do well in some of the Grand Slams and grade A events he could easily get into the top 10."

One of the few options available to Fanning and Norrie is to go to a US college.

Fanning is set to take this route and, without the finance, Greenhalgh says that Norrie may go too.

- Sunday News

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