Tennis: Otago youngster up with world's best

Queenstown tennis player Manawa Rakete-Shea gets in some training at the Wakatipu High School courts. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
Queenstown tennis player Manawa Rakete-Shea gets in some training at the Wakatipu High School courts. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
New Zealand tennis may have a future ace up its sleeve.

Manawa Rakete-Shea (12) has certainly been offering glimpses of an exciting future.

He won the South Island primary and intermediate tennis championship in Blenheim last year, and reached the final of the national 12 and under tournament in Hamilton a week ago.

Manawa moved to Queenstown from Dunedin at the start of 2012 to further his training at the Queenstown Tennis Academy.

Coach Lan Bale, a former ATP professional, said Manawa had a very bright future.

''He's a very gifted player. The way he plays is a step above other kids.''

Bale, who has coached other rising New Zealand players like Riki and Ben McLachlan, said Manawa had as much potential as those players, if not more, at his age.

''As it stands, he is one of the best prospects in the country. He's as gifted as the best 12-year-olds in the world.''

Manawa was barely troubled in the South Island tournament, as his strong backhand took apart his opponents.

He breezed through the first stages of the tournament, won his semifinal against the third-ranked player in New Zealand, and won the final 6-1, 6-2.

Bale was full of praise for how his young charge performed.

''He didn't just win it, he won easily. He was definitely a stand-out.''

In the national tournament, the Queenstown boy was the fourth seed but knocked out three other seeds on his path to the final. His conqueror in the final was Macsen Sisam (Auckland), who recently won the Australian junior title for his age.

Manawa, who trains up to 25 hours a week, said he was uncertain about his goals and what he wanted to achieve in the future with tennis.

- John McKenzie.