Tennis: Pro's loss Waikato's gain
05 February 2002
By BRUCE HOLLOWAY
Leanne Baker should have been playing tennis in Mexico this week.
Instead the 21-year-old Te Awamutu professional, ranked 380 in the world in singles and 150 in doubles, is spending her days assisting with junior coaching clinics around Waikato schools after a sponsorship shortfall meant she was last week unable to stump up with the airfare.
It's good news for Waikato that she's stranded here – it means she will represent the province in the Slazenger Rosebowl at the weekend – but a tragedy for Baker and coach Andrew Rogers, who have been mapping out a strategy to push her into the world's top 100.
Baker is still sponsored by Nike for clothing and Wilson for rackets, but underwear manufacturers Triumph International have discontinued their support which was vital in covering the difference between prizemoney and the annual $40,000 cost of air fares.
Baker is still $5000 short of what's needed for her next 12-week stint overseas, where she is seeking to build on past tournament wins in France, Sweden and Florida.
"We put a programme together then went 'oops, we can't do it'," Rogers said.
Baker was today named in New Zealand's Federation Cup team to play in China in March, but Rogers is desperate to get her overseas before then. "It's fingers crossed we'll find some business support. If not I'll put the expenses on my credit card.
"The best thing we can do is have Leanne working around the schools to lift the profile of tennis. We need the public to make the link."
Baker said it was tough business week in and week out making ends meet. "But I'm just trying to train to the highest possible standard and lift the profile of the game."
Can you help Leanne Baker? Contact Andrew Rogers at PO Box 4341, Hamilton East, or phone 849-9942.