Why did Cameron Norrie change nationality?
Current British No 1 Cameron Norrie had plenty of options when it came to countries he could represent as a promising junior.
Born in South Africa, Norrie relocated to New Zealand very young and developed as a young player within the structures of Tennis NZ.
However, by the time he turned professional, Norrie switched allegiance to Great Britain.
This was certainly not a case of Tennis NZ not knowing what they had on their hands, but the launch of a professional tennis career requires significant bankrolling and players often require a great deal more support than one might imagine.
Tennis NZ has for a long time suffered from a severe lack of funding, especially in comparison to the likes of the United States and European nations.
Norrie’s switch to Great Britain was on the cards due to his parents both being British and the move was a no-brainer.
Playing for South Africa was never really on the cards as Tennis South Africa also struggles to render financial aid to its best players.
He had a six-week trial with the Lawn Tennis Association as a 17-year-old back in 2013 and they liked what they saw from the then top-ten junior.
Tennis NZ did not begrudge Norrie his departure, however at the time CEO Steve Johns vowed to take up the matter of funding with Sport New Zealand.
Ultimately, NZ Tennis depends on the country’s Olympic committee for funding and their line is only funding athletes with a good chance of winning Olympic medals.
New Zealand hosts just one event on the men’s and women’s top tours in Auckland and has few other avenues of revenue generation, relying on outside funding to help its top players succeed on the tour.
Johns believed back then that Norrie might be a player who was in fact capable of winning Olympic medals but he realised that he could not hold the youngster back.
“We’re clearly not there yet,” he said. “But who’s to say Cameron wouldn’t have been a future Olympics medallist for New Zealand.”
A terse statement from Tennis NZ confirmed the change in diplomatic fashion.
“Athletes and coaches do move around the world. We benefit when overseas athletes choose to live in New Zealand.
“Cameron has identified an opportunity for him and we wish him well in chasing his dream.”
Norrie had received little from Tennis NZ and his parents were left holding the bag when it came to funding his numerous overseas trip.
Most of his support and development was in the hands of Tennis Auckland and the loss of Norrie sparked massive criticism of tennis bosses in New Zealand.
That criticism hasn’t faded and tennis in the country still isn’t in the best space.
Meanwhile, Great Britain’s tennis is in rude health with Norrie in the top ten as their top male player.
Cameron Norrie changed nationality to receive funding and other support not available in New Zealand and with the benefit of hindsight it looks to have been the right move. He made the switch in April 2013 as a 17-year-old.
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