Davis Cup veteran Rubin Statham faces the possibility of months away from home beyond the upcoming tie against Korea, after Tennis New Zealand were unable to secure a MIQ spot for his return.
Statham, who has played more Davis Cup ties than any other Kiwi, will spearhead the New Zealand effort in Newport next week, as the No 1 singles player, alongside ATP doubles exponents Michael Venus and Marcus Daniell and Cup rookies Finn Reynolds and Issac Becroft.
It’s New Zealand’s most important match in years, with a chance of progressing to the prestigious World Group qualifiers if they beat the Asian team.
But it must have been a difficult dilemma for Statham; an opportunity to perform on the big stage, with the carrot of a dream Davis Cup match-up in the future, weighed up against the uncertainty of being unable to return to New Zealand for an indefinite period.
It didn’t apply to the other players. Venus and Daniell are on the ATP tour, having recently played at the US Open, while Reynolds (21) and Becroft (20) are at colleges in Mississippi and California.
Tennis New Zealand high performance manager Christophe Lambert, who is team captain for this tie, had his MIQ spot booked months earlier, while Tennis New Zealand president Terri-Ann Scorer has also secured a quarantine place.
The governing body admitted it was an unfortunate situation for Statham.
“It came about because Rubin confirmed his availability on the 9th of August,” said chief executive Julie Paterson. “He had a few things he wanted to mull over so that was the time it took to come back to us and let us know.
“It was difficult to book MIQ positions. When you book an MIQ position you also have to book a flight…you can’t do that until we have confirmed availability.”
Paterson added that at the time they were “optimistically hoping to get September”.
However, the Herald understands that team selections were not finalised until late July and prospective players were only presented with their contracts on August 1.
Planning for this tie has been complex, with Tennis NZ forced to find a neutral venue, or face a forfeit.
But discussions with the players about where it might be played started in April, and the venue had to be confirmed with the International Tennis Federation in June, so the delay, which has led to Statham’s quandary, is difficult to understand, especially given his pedigree.
Paterson said they were hopeful of finding a solution for Statham, who has represented New Zealand on 31 occasions, with a record 26 singles victories.
“We are doing everything that we can to support him in securing a spot,” said Paterson. “We can’t do that at the moment because the booking system has closed. But prior to that we had been doing everything we could, alongside Rubin.”
Paterson also said that Scorer was travelling privately “not funded by Tennis New Zealand” and her MIQ spot was booked some time ago, while Lambert’s MIQ place was confirmed during the planning for the Tokyo Olympics, where he supported Venus and Daniell.
The tie will be played at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport, Rhode Island.
Paterson said a venue in the United States made sense – given the proximity of the US Open – and after exploring a few options, they settled on Newport.
It was felt the grass surface would negate the Koreans’ strengths, and there are financial advantages, as the ITHF are a not-for-profit organisation.
“They support the delivery of the event in a less commercial manner, providing all of the on the ground services that we need,” said Paterson.
They’ve also provided invaluable logistical support.
“It’s bloody difficult to organise a tie from New Zealand to be managed in a neutral location without having somebody on the ground to do that,” added Paterson.
There’s also some historical symmetry, as the ITHF hosted a tie between an Australasian team and Japan a century ago. The tie starts on September 18.
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