Tennis player Erin Routliffe becomes Kiwi in time for Fed Cup

Erin Routliffe played at the New Zealand championships and ASB Classic over the Christmas period.

Erin Routliffe played at the New Zealand championships and ASB Classic over the Christmas period.

New Zealand has a new tennis player to get excited about and she'll fulfil a big role for her country at next month's Fed Cup.

The International Tennis Federation have granted permission for Erin Routliffe to change nationalities from Canada to New Zealand.

She immediately becomes the country's No 2, behind Marina Erakovic, with a world ranking of 633, but don't let that number put you off about how much potential she has.

Routliffe has just finished her degree at the University of Alabama and will soon hit the professional circuit to find out how good she could be.

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But before that the 22-year-old will lead New Zealand's charge at the Fed Cup in Tajikistan on July 17, spearheading a team that also contains Paige Hourigan and Joanna Carswell, but not Marina Erakovic.

Routliffe was born in Auckland while her parents were in New Zealand and she spent the first four years of her life in the country. 

She was the eighth highest ranked Canadian player, but decided to throw her lot in with New Zealand after making a trip to Auckland at the end of last year.

She needed approval from the ITF to make the change and confirmation came through just before New Zealand had to confirm their team for the Fed Cup.

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"It's been a long process trying to make it happen and I knew I wanted to do this after coming here for Christmas," Routliffe said.

"They asked me for a statement, stating my allegiance to New Zealand and what my future plans were, to see if this was legit."

Routliffe said Tennis NZ helped her make the change, but she said she always knew this would be an option for her, despite playing Junior Fed Cup for Canada.

"I've been communicating with Tennis NZ for a couple of months now, I thought about it in juniors and at college, it was a different time in my life," she said.

"When I realised I wanted to play pro after I finished school I thought about the different options, but then I came here at Christmas and they were super welcoming.

"I spent a bit of time with Simon (Rea, Tennis NZ high performance director) and the New Zealand players and it felt like it would be a good move."

Taking the college route, rather than going straight on the circuit at the age of 18, meant Routliffe was only able to play a few tournaments each year.

With college out of the way though she'll be able to travel the world and improve her ranking.

"I'm super excited," she said. 

"I haven't played a full schedule ever in my life, let alone a few tennis tournaments in a row.

"I love competing and playing in tournaments, so I'm excited to get out there and see what I can do."

Given the lack of depth there is in New Zealand women's tennis, this couldn't have come at a better time for Rea, who'll captain the team at Tajikistan.

Rea will spend the next few weeks working with Routliffe and they'll figure out how things go from there.

"My only goal in the short term every time I'm starting a new relationship with a player is that I want to earn her respect, show her some care as a human being," Rea said.

"She's come to a country she's not all that familiar with, away from friends and family, so I'll try to support her through the transition and then we'll have a look as what's happening on court and potentially improve on what's happening there.

"But on the strength of one session, there's no shortage of weaponry and some really impressive assets in her game.

"If we can give her a hand packaging them up the right way, the future is really bright for her."

Rea said while he was disappointed Erakovic made herself unavailable for selection, he understood that her priority was to get her ranking up from where it currently stands at 148.

"I could hear the hurt in her voice when she called me," he said. 

"She was really keen to play and she wouldn't have found that phone call easy.

"She's a quality person, a proud New Zealander, but it was a real challenge for her as to where the week sits in her schedule.

"Also, she's got some challenges at the moment in terms of her own form. She wants to prioritise her own career, which I understand and hopefully she can play next year."

 - Stuff

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