29 July 2011

Big tennis day for little NZ

Having lived in New Zealand for more than seven years, I can say with certainty that tennis is not exactly a huge sport here. Yes, Kiwis love sports but there have been few Kiwis making many tennis headlines, even in their own country.

Despite that, Auckland has run fab ATP and WTA tourneys for years and in recent years Marina Erakovic has been the only real hope NZ has to be a top player.

Marina made a great run to the semis of the ASB Classic back in 2008, but she lost to Aravane Rezai. That was a jumpstart tho to a solid season where she would crack the top 50. Since her great 2008, she's battled injury - she was out with a hip injury for six months - and her ranking plummeted to the 300s.

But this year, she's had some pretty good runs. She reached the doubles final at the ASB Classic and made the semis at Wimbledon in doubles. Her net play is great, her serve is a weakness. During the ASB Classic this year, I heard people say she should just focus on doubles.

I was talking to a tennis mate the other day, and said I thought Victoria Azarenka was a great top player for Marina to play against because Vika can be so fragile, mentally and physically. I thought Marina had a chance.

Well, what do you know! The Kiwi did it, knocking out Vika in three sets. I didn't see the match, but read Vika said she played at 'one zillionth' of her abilities today. Who cares - Marina is into the quarters of a big hardcourt tourney in the US. And she'll be back in the top 100 after her first win ever over a top 20 player. Yeah!

What really pleased me today were comments from NZers on the news websites - really warmed my heart to read the support from Kiwis for Marina, who truly is the only player flying the NZ flag at tour level tennis events. She next takes on Dominika Cibulkova. GO KIWI!

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