Sport in the North Harbour region can continue to be proud as another first can be celebrated after success at the recent New Zealand Tennis Champs.
Professional player, Michael Venus won the men’s singles for a second time and also the doubles title for the first time while teenager Rosie Cheng won the women’s singles and doubles titles.
It was the first time in the 28 year history of the NZ Tennis Champs and previously called Residentials that a North Harbour female player had won the title. And while 17-year-old Cheng who has just completed her schooling at Westlake Girls has the potential to be a professional player, her male counterpart, Venus has already played in all of the Grand Slams tennis events, won an ATP men’s doubles title, is ranked at 44 in the world in doubles, plays Davis Cup for New Zealand, will play in the ASB Classic in January (formerly the Heineken Open) and is respected for his skills around the world.
Venus defeated Davis Cup team mate Artem Sitak 6-1 6-4 in the men’s singles final at the ASB Tennis Arena in Auckland over the weekend and in doing so earned himself a main draw wildcard into the big ASB Classic in January. He then teamed with Sitak to win the doubles in three sets over Finn Tearney from Wellington and North Harbour Wesley Whitehouse. The victory also giving Venus and Sitak main draw ASB Classic wildcards for doubles.
Cheng on the other hand had a tough three set clash in her quarter-final over Nina Paripovich from Waikato, but was a bit more relaxed in her semifinal victory against second seed Leela Beattie before beating former pro Sacha Jones (Auckland) in straight sets to be awarded a qualifying wildcard into the ASB Classic. Jones was ranked as high as 150 in the world and was also the top seed.
Cheng is coached by North Harbour sporting identity, Jeff Simpson and gave credit to him after her win.
“Jeff is a great coach and I’ve learned so much from him. It’s nice to finally win something.”
Cheng won the doubles when she combined with Jones to defeat Auckland pair Leela Beattie and Jo Carswell in straight sets and received a main draw wildcard into the ASB Classic doubles.
The success of both players was hailed by Tennis Northern ceo, David Frank who was delighted to see home-grown talent coming through.
“We have a tremendous sense of local pride in seeing both Michael’s past and ongoing domestic and international success and Rosie’s emergence as perhaps New Zealand’s brightest hope since Marina Erakovic. In winning the Pascoes New Zealand Championships for the second year running Michael has shown that, despite a concentration on doubles at ATP level – he deserves that precious singles wildcard into the ASB Classic,” said David Frank.
Within its junior academy programme Tennis Northern believes in encouragement and development both on and off the tennis court. Within the sport, giving all that you can and going as far as you can is paramount, but there are many years after tennis and that’s the key focus. We’re delighted that through continued emphasis on her studies at Westlake Girls Rosie has secured a tennis scholarship at the highly prestigious Columbia University in New York.
Michael also pursued his tennis via US College and says “It is great about Rosie getting in to Columbia. For me college was definitely the right path. I remember training in the squads at Albany growing up, it doesn’t feel that long ago.”
The whole Venus family is keen on the sport with two of Michael’s sister having completed scholarships at American Universities, plus another sister and his mother playing Chelsea Cup and his father also a club player.
Venus had his junior training under the guidance of Simpson. A life-long Mairangi Bay resident. Simpson’s achievements over decades both as player and coach are renowned and he has overseen Cheng’s training and playing programme at the Albany Tennis Park.