Rising star off to try his luck in the US

One of Waikato's brightest tennis prospects is heading to the United States to further his development.

Former two-times national 16s boys' champion Andy van der Vyver will take up a four-year scholarship at the University of New Mexico, where he will be studying medicine.

The 18-year-old completed year 13 at St Peter's School this year and has been playing for Te Awamutu/Otorohanga in the Waikato interclub competition.

With the help of Auckland-based business Play Atlantic, he has organised an overseas excursion which he hopes will benefit him in both the sport and academic departments.

"The tennis competition for juniors in New Zealand, it's all right, but after school there's not enough, I feel," said van der Vyver, who is the second-ranked boys' 18s player in the country.

"So if I go over there, there's going to be a lot more, so I can realise my potential more to see what I can do with tennis.

"I'm going to try and play for as long as possible. I'm not ruling out trying to play for New Zealand, but I really have to see where I'm at four years from now to see what my level is at.

"I'll just try and be the best player I can be at the moment and see where that takes me. But I think it's important to get a degree and get the academic priority sorted." Van der Vyver went to the US in his school holidays to scout potential colleges, and found the level of tennis they play is "very high".

"A lot of my tennis friends have gone over there and they've said great things about it. And it sounds like it's going to be a really good overseas experience."

Van der Vyver had quite a lot of offers to consider and said Play Atlantic really helped with his choices.

"I made a video with a friend with me just doing all of these shots and then I got my coach and he drilled me a bit, and then we handed that kind of stuff over to Play Atlantic and they took care of everything in that aspect, so it was a big help," he said.

After meeting van der Vyver, the coach from New Mexico went to the youngster's tennis trip to France, where he was staying in Bordeaux and playing in local tournaments, experiencing the different surfaces with a group of Waikato boys.

Van der Vyver, who started playing tennis at the tender age of 3, and whose parents both played to a reasonable level, has always been a big fan of fellow left-hander Rafael Nadal, though his stance is softening somewhat.

"Now that [Roger] Federer's getting closer to retiring I'm getting more respect for him now he's still going, but I've still got to hand it to Nadal with his style of play and dedication."

Van der Vyver leaves on January 7 to start his new adventure.

Following his four years in the US, he plans to finish his degree in Auckland.

Waikato Times