Tennis appeals to retain elite status

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 February, 2007, 12:00am

Tennis put its case for survival as an elite status sport yesterday, citing an untimely exodus of top players for why it failed to meet required performance criteria.

The sport's representatives appeared in front of an appeal panel last night in a last ditch effort to stay in the elite programme of the Sports Institute. Spokesmen for athletics and tenpin bowling were also present, pleading the case for their threatened disciplines. Rugby union, which is denied elite status at the moment, put the case that a different set of standards should apply for team sports.

Elite status is worth around HK$5 million-a-year to tennis alone.

'We just missed by 0.5 points according to the selection criteria,' said Hong Kong Tennis Association president Kenneth Tsui after attending the panel. 'When it comes to champions representing Hong Kong, we have produced many good players, but unfortunately they all went abroad after reaching certain levels and have hardly represented Hong Kong again.

'But despite these difficult circumstances we have still managed to achieve a score which is very close to the required standard. I also told the panel that there are some up-and-coming players and if they can remain in the elite programme, they will soon produce results that could reach the required standard.'

One of the promising tennis stars is Zhang Ling, who recently reached the last 16 in the girls' junior singles at the Australian Open.

The HK Sports Institute supports 13 elite programmes and 10 have successfully achieved the required standard. Tennis and athletics will be kicked out of the programme from April 1 as they have already served out a two-year grace period, while tenpin bowling will be given two more years even if their appeal fails as this is the first time they failed to make the standard.