Tennis New Zealand high performance director Simon Rea is disappointed Valentina Ivanov and Paige Hourigan won’t be able to play in next month’s Fed Cup.

New Zealand will enter next month’s Fed Cup without their most promising young player, Valentina Ivanov, who has made herself unavailable, despite considerable funding having her way.

To make matters worse, her US college Georgia Tech have refused to release Paige Hourigan for the tournament, which takes place in Bahrain next month.

Ivanov, who is based in Sydney, has been a Tennis NZ targeted athlete since 2014, when she was aged 12 and she has benefitted from a considerable amount of funding.

Paige Hourigan desperately wanted to play for New Zealand in  Bahrain.


Paige Hourigan desperately wanted to play for New Zealand in Bahrain.

Last year she went to Europe for an extended period of time, which Tennis NZ paid for. She also went to Egypt and to South Carolina for a training block.

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Ivanov was then supported and funded to get to Asia through October and November.

She has informed Tennis NZ that she doesn’t want to play in the Fed Cup next month, so Erin Routliffe, Jade Lewis, Katherine Westbury and Emily Fanning have been selected.

Without the injured Marina Erakovic or Hourigan, Ivanov would have been an important member of the team.

Tennis NZ CEO Julie Paterson said they expected someone who they’d put so much support and resources into would make herself available to play for the country.

“We were really disappointed that she chose not to,” Paterson said. 

“We haven’t really had a response about why not and I guess that makes it a little more puzzling from our perspective.

“We have invested a lot of time, energy and resource into Valentina over the last 12 months and we have an expectation that part of that investment would be that the return from the player is to make themselves available for national teams and tournaments if required.

Ivanov hasn’t played in New Zealand since 2015 and it was hoped that she’d come back late last year to play in the NZ Nationals. However, she chose to stay in Australia and train with Tennis NZ coach Marcel Vos.

“We’ve been flexible around the national competition. We really wanted Valentina to compete in the national champs, but it didn’t suit her schedule and what she was doing at the time.

“We tried to be reasonable about that, but from a representative perspective and national teams, that’s a non negotiable.

“If you’re going to get support from Tennis NZ, then we really think that there needs to be some commitment and return back to New Zealand.”

Tennis NZ high performance director Simon Rea echoed Paterson’s sentiments about her choosing not to play in the Fed Cup.

“Valentina always represented New Zealand strongly through the age groups,” Rea said.

“World junior teams, Junior Fed Cup, she’s been a valued and important member of those teams and we’d like that to continue.

“Whilst we’re disappointed she chose to make herself unavailable for this particular Fed Cup engagement, we’re hopeful that 12 months from now, similar to Jade Lewis who circled back around after making herself unavailable in 2017, she’ll be available in 2019.

“We did appreciate from a tennis in New Zealand standpoint that Karl (Budge, ASB Classic tournament director) was strong in granting a main draw wildcard to Jade this year, conditional on her allegiance to play Fed Cup for New Zealand.”

Valentina’s father Sergey Ivanov said the reason why she’s not playing the Fed Cup was because they didn’t think the 16-year-old was ready to play at that level yet.

“For the last year she was suffering lots of different things,” Sergey said. 

“She started growing fast and because of this she had some common problems, some injuries and she didn’t play for a long time.

“She lost a lot of ranking points and to jump into the next level and play women’s tennis would be difficult for her body.

“It would be better if it was slowed down and she was allowed to adjust to a new environment. So she’ll play the (Junior) Australian Open and then it will be a clearer picture.”

As for Hourigan, Rea said he hoped Georgia Tech would have allowed her to represent her country.

“That was enormously disappointing and Neil (Carter, Fed Cup captain) and I tried really hard,” he said.

“She’s shattered and so are we, because she represented us strongly last year and we believe she’s a big part of our Fed Cup future, so that’s disappointing.”

Meanwhile, the Davis Cup team for next month’s tie against China has also been named. 

No1 ranked singles player Rubin Statham is joined by doubles specialists Michael Venus, Marcus Daniell and Artem Sitak with promising junior Macsen Sisam travelling as the fifth player, to get a taste of the Davis Cup environment.

 – Sunday Star Times

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