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NZ Captain To Target Opponents During Billie Jean King Cup

New Zealand will play South Korea on Tuesday in the Billie Jean King Cup tournament in China, with the team’s captain, Matt Hair acknowledging it will be a crucial match up.

The New Zealand team, which boasts Lulu Sun in the lineup for the first time, will also play against China, India, Pacific Oceania and Chinese Taipei over the week in the Asia/Oceania Group I competition, previously known as the Fed Cup.

The tournament is being held on clay courts in Changsha, China, with the top two teams winning promotion to the playoffs and bottom two relegated to Asia/Oceania Group II.

The New Zealand team consists of Sun, Erin Routliffe, Valentina Ivanov, Paige Hourigan and Monique Barry.

Hair, says managing the team and targeting specific opponents will be crucial over the week, as he tries to secure one of the top two spots for promotion.

His challenge will be to keep Sun, who has by far the best singles ranking in the New Zealand team, fresh for the big singles matches and team her up with Routliffe for the doubles on the right occasions.

“We’ll look at targeting some ties,” Hair said.

“It’s obviously important to keep Lulu fresh throughout the week. It’s great to have Lulu here, she’s 169 in the world and that’s a great bonus for our team to have her playing.

“It will come down to the doubles, it’s a day to day thing and obviously, how we’re looking after the singles.

“But we’re wary to keep her fresh throughout the week for her singles.”

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The Te Anau-born Sun recently completed her switch to represent New Zealand, rather than Switzerland and it was clear at this year’s ASB Classic how popular she had already become among the Kiwi tennis loving public.

Although she wouldn’t know most of the New Zealand Billie Jean King Cup team before this week, Hair says she’s settled in well.

“She fitted in straight away and gets on with the girls really well,” Hair said.

“She’s really managed to fit into the environment, quicker than we expected actually.”

New Zealand are seeded fifth for this event, but are in with a good opportunity to make the top two.

China have included world No 7 Zheng Qinwen in their team and also three other players ranked inside the world’s top 60.

It’s going to take a big upset to stop them going through this tournament undefeated, while everyone will be looking to bank straight forward wins against Pacific Oceania.

However, what makes things tricky is that the schedule is being done just one day in advance, making it harder for Hair to prepare his selections.

“It would have been nice to have an order of play for the whole week, but this is the way they’ve done it,” Hair said.

“So we’re looking at it one tie at a time at the moment and just concentrating on Korea.

“I think Korea, India, Chinese Taipei and us are very similar and on any given day, anyone can beat anyone from those teams. So those are the matches that are going to be the tough ones.

“We’re hoping for a decent win against Pacific Oceania and China is a very strong team they’ve got here this year.”


Lulu Sun

Age: 22

Singles ranking: 169

Doubles ranking: 323

Monique Barry

Age: 21

Singles ranking: 632

Doubles ranking: 494

Erin Routliffe

Age: 28

Singles ranking: 744

Doubles ranking: 5

Valentina Ivanov

Age: 23

Singles ranking: 962

Doubles ranking: 856

Paige Hourigan

Age: 27

Singles ranking: -

Doubles ranking: 459

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