Simon Plumb: World-class tennis? Yeah right!

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 19/01/2014
Marina Erakovic
Getty Images
NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Marina Erakovic has crashed out of the Australian Open.

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OPINION: Every year, they try selling us the same old dummy.

But as sure as you can bet your summer on the Black Caps bounding inexplicably from the ridiculous, to the sublime, and back again, you can bet on being oversold "high performance" tennis.

January is a very sleepy month for sport in New Zealand. Most athletes are having a well-earned break, and likewise, most of the public are either still on holiday, or are slowly getting back into work and the routine of needing to keep track of what day of the week it is.

And while I don't have a problem with tennis, or those who enjoy it, I'm sick of hearing frothing-at-the-gills hyperbole about the alleged quality of two international tournaments hosted in Auckland, and (usually from the same people), pre-cocked excuses for, or blind eyes turned to, the performances of New Zealand number one Marina Erakovic.

For what it's worth, I think it's wrong that Erakovic is controversially not allowed to use gym facilities for free at the Crown's elite sport base on the North Shore of Auckland. Erakovic has a WTA ranking of 52 in one of the world's most popular and competitive sports. Moreover, it's not flinging any extra resource. The money has been spent on the equipment already and it's there to be used, so use it.

But, let's not kid ourselves about what she is capable of. In singles, Erakovic has never been past a third round in a Grand Slam, and, let's at least have the bravery to call a poor performance exactly what it is - and not fawn all over her when she fails to deliver.

Her latest "shock" defeat, crashing out of the Australian Open in the dizzy heights of the second round to Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas (ranked 100 places below Erakovic) has been pinned by some pundits almost entirely on the tough conditions in Melbourne.

Sure, it's extremely hot over there, but it's the same for everyone, whether you're ranked 52 or 152. For any athlete, in any sport, professing an ability around the world top 50, losing to someone 100 places below is nothing short of a major catastrophe - and probably down to more than just the weather.

Such is Erakovic's status on the Kiwi sporting landscape that one, very senior Kiwi sports administrator repeatedly referred to her as "Erina" in a meeting with myself and some of my colleagues, and was awkwardly corrected by an assistant that her name was, in actual fact, "Marina". Whoops.

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At 25, Erakovic should be in the prime of her career, or at least on the brink.

If you've not done much by now, chances are, you won't.

- Sunday News

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