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New Zealand becoming destination of choice for tennis players

Sebastian Lavie didn't reach the heights he wanted to as a player.


Sebastian Lavie didn’t reach the heights he wanted to as a player.

Auckland has become a home for tennis players from the northern hemisphere, looking for a good base before the start of the 2018 season.

Former New Zealand Davis Cup player Sebastian Lavie has had the idea to set up a summer training camp in Auckland, making use of the summer weather, while Europe battles through the winter months.

So Lavie has been putting a bunch of players through their paces on the courts at the ASB Tennis Centre, as well as using their first class gym.

Sebastian Lavie is back on centre court in Auckland, but this time as a coach.


Sebastian Lavie is back on centre court in Auckland, but this time as a coach.

“What I’ve always felt in the past when I was still playing, was that there are such great facilities here,” Lavie said. 

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“There’s normally great weather, definitely better than Europe and most of the world.

“So since I started coaching, I’ve always wanted to bring my players here for the preseason.

“But now that I have a few guys working with me as well as the whole New Zealand Davis Cup team, it seemed like a really good opportunity to bring everyone together.”

Lavie has been working with two members of the Irish Davis Cup team in Auckland, Sam Barry and David O’Hare, Peter Kobelt from America, who has a world ranking of 549, plus Kiwis Artem Sitak, Marcus Daniell, Finn Tearney and Rubin Statham.

This summer it’s been something of a trial run for Lavie, but he’s looking to expand the operation next year and has high profile players looking to base themselves in Auckland next summer.

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“From the start it was always something that I wanted to do on a yearly basis,” Lavie said.

“I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, there were a few top 100 players that wanted to come.

“But until I was able to get sponsors, work out all the accommodation and all the costs of around it, it was difficult for me to guarantee them of everything I needed.

“But now we’ve got it running in the first year and I’ve already got good feedback from players who want to train here next year.”

“I was really lucky to have a few sponsors,” he added. 

“But mainly the first one, a company called Concretec. Their director, Stefan Young is a pretty big tennis fan and wanted to help out in any way he could.”

For New Zealanders, the camp gives them good players to hit with while home for the summer. The overseas players will look to see if they can get into qualifying for the ASB Classic, otherwise they’ll head over to tournaments in Australia in the new year.

Back in 2010 Lavie was regarded as New Zealand’s hottest prospect in tennis and got to 31 in the junior world rankings.

However, results didn’t come his way when making the transition to playing men and got to a career high ranking of 784.

In 2014, at the age of 21, he decided to retire and focus on coaching.

“If I look at my ATP ranking in terms of success or failure, that was definitely not what I would have wanted,” Lavie reflected. 

“I was expecting a bit more from myself and I think the fact that by the time I was about 20, I’d already been on the tour for a couple of years, I’d had a few injuries, but my overall feeling was that I wasn’t doing as well as I could have.

“That was the main reason why I called it a day quite early, I felt I was lacking that belief to really push through.

“The contrast between having such a great support team growing up and then basically turning into a pro and being a little more solo, I struggled with that.

“If you don’t have that belief you’re never going to make the top 100.

“You could make the top 400, but that wasn’t why I was playing and as soon as I felt that flame die, I called it a day.”

As well as bringing players to Auckland at the end of every year, Lavie would like to set up an elite tennis academy in the city, something many other countries have, but is lacking in New Zealand. 

“That’s something I would like to do, I’d love to be able to do it with Tennis NZ or a large association so that we can all do it together,” said Lavie, who attended the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in France.

“Because I think there are a few too many separate moving parts at the moment, but if everyone gets together there could be something like that, that could work.

“There are small countries that have very good results, look at Belgium. You could say it’s the location that gives them that, but there is no reason why they have more top 100 players than Germany.

“It’s just a culture that has to be built and it’s not overnight, but it can happen and I  believe it’s possible it can happen here.”

 – Sunday Star Times

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