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George Stoupe is the number one ranked Under-14 tennis player in New Zealand. At the College Sport Wellington Awards recently he scooped the prize for tennis player of the year. He is only Year 9 at Hutt International Boys’ School.
Over Labour weekend the New Zealand Junior Masters were held at Wilding Park in Christchurch. The event features the top eight players in that age group in the country.
Stoupe was seeded second, but finally overcame his nemesis Chris Zhang from Westlake Boys’ High School. Stoup had never beaten Zhang in their previous meetings. He explains his tactics in a match that determined a change in the pecking order of New Zealand Junior tennis.
“Chris is a lot bigger than any of us. He hits the ball harder than any of us. I decided to serve and volley occasionally to shorten the length of the rallies and mix things up. I also sliced the ball and backed my fitness,” he says.
Stoupe won in straight sets 6-3, 6-3. The following weekend he won Central Masters title, a tournament involving the best players from Wellington to Taranaki. The victory over Zhang though is particularly satisfying. He has bragging rights over a frequent travel companion.
“I travel a lot with Chris. Chris and I are a part of the targeted talent group at New Zealand tennis. We get training and competition support which is really nice,” Stoupe says.
Stoupe is already well travelled. In July he won the doubles title at the Storks Cup tournament at Meppel, in the Netherlands. Stoupe and Zhang, who were unseeded, beat the top seeds, from the Netherlands, 6-3, 6-7, 10-7 in the final.
Stoupe spent eight weeks in Europe competing and training under the guidance of Tennis New Zealand coaches Marcel Vos and Lan Bale, as well as his own coach Marc Paulik.
Stoupe says it was a “valuable learning experience.” He was exposed to the clay surface for the first time.
Stoupe played the game for the first time when he was seven. He started at a now defunct Lower Hutt Club. He has won over 20 singles and doubles titles, but believes his success in the Under-12 national doubles two years ago was the catalyst for his increased training and ascent up the rankings.
In January Stoupe won the national under-14 doubles title, with schoolmate William Brownlie.
In December Stoupe will head to Australia to represent New Zealand at the Australian Nationals held at Melbourne Park. He achieved a top 15 finish in the singles and teams’ event last year.
In January 2016 the New Zealand Nationals are staged in Auckland.