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“Everything has got better,” George Stoupe enthuses when reflecting on his summer of tennis.
The Year 12 student at Hutt International Boys’ School is the top ranked Under-16 player in New Zealand and in January won the National singles and doubles titles in that age group.
“My serve and forehand still needs a lot of work, but everything has got bigger which has given me more confidence,” Stoupe reflects.
In a rematch of the National Under-14 final, played on the same court, Stoupe rallied from losing the first set 4-6 to overcome his doubles partner Chris Zhang 6-2, 6-1.
“It was a close first set. A couple of the big points went his way and suddenly the set was gone. I played real solid tennis in the next two sets. I mixed things up more and was able to out rally Chris,” Stoupe explains.
Less than an hour later Stoupe and Zhang had to combine in the doubles final.
“That wasn’t ideal, but Chris and I are good mates. He took his loss well and we managed to beat a younger pair in straight sets which was a great result.”
Stoupe has boosted his singles world ranking to 400, despite limited international competition. Stoupe has competed in three ITF tournaments in Wellington, Christchurch and lastly Auckland. ITF tournaments are graded 1-5 with a Grade 1 tournament being the highest ranked tournament. Grade 3 is the highest ranked event played in New Zealand. Stoupe was twice a semi-finalist in Grade 3 tournaments.
“My goal is to get enough points to compete in the junior Grand Slams next year. That will allow me to test myself against the best players in the world,” Stoupe reveals.
Stoupe more than tested New Zealand’s top ranked Under-18 player Finn Reynolds at the Under-18 Nationals. Stoupe was up 6-0 and 4-3 against the US based talent before losing in three sets.
“I got a bit nervous because I surprised myself by being so far ahead. When I tightened up and started thinking about the result things went wrong.”
Stoupe will take a short break from competitive play before seeking some international tournaments later in the year. Stoupe managed to achieve a merit endorsement in his NCEA Level 1 exams, but will seek a recount for excellence given he was only two credits short of that rank.
Note: A highlight for George last year was his selection to play for New Zealand at number one in the New Zealand Junior Davis Cup Team that competed in India in April 2017. The team finished 9th out of 16 teams in the Australasia qualifier for the World Group. The top four countries advanced to the World Group. New Zealand lost to eventual champions Japan in pool play.