NZ tennis players at Wimbledon

Sports correspondent & historian
with Sideline Sid

At the beginning of July, New Zealand born women’s tennis player Lulu Sun was unheralded outside the realms of hard-core tennis fans.

Fast forward two weeks, she had become the toast of Wimbledon, in becoming the first Kiwi women’s player to reach the quarterfinals at the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world.

Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and has been held at the All England Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, London since 1877.

One of four Grand Slam tournaments, it is the only major still played on the traditional surface of grass.

Lulu Sun was born in Te Anau but shifted to Switzerland at five years of age.

She entered the USA College tennis pathway playing out of the University of Texas.

Sun played under the banner of Switzerland after turning pro in 2022.

Such was the support that she received at the 2024 WTA Auckland Open that she switched her affiliation to New Zealand.

Sun represented New Zealand at the Billy Jean King Cup in May.

Ranked 123rd in the world entering Wimbledon, Lulu captivated the London crowds, after winning through from the qualifying tournament to progress to the last eight.

Lulu Sun follows in the footsteps of another New Zealand women’s competitor to play in the second week at Wimbledon.

Six decades ago, (Dame) Ruia Morrison made the last 16 at the England Grand Slam in 1957 and 1959, interspersed with a third round appearance in 1958.

Born at Tikitere between Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti, the Morrison family shifted to Te Koutu in the heart of Rotorua during the later years of World War II.

Morrison’s father, Hingawaka, helped build two tennis courts at the local marae across the road from the Morrison family home.

The tennis courts were a well used Koutu facility, with Sideline Sid and his family often using the courts when living nearby in the mid-1980s.

Lulu Sun’s Wimbledon quarterfinal earnings will total over NZ 700K, $700,000 in stark contrast to Ruia Morrison, whose supporters had to fundraise for her travel to Wimbledon in the days of amateur tennis.

Ruia Morrison’s first Wimbledon tournament in 1957 saw her reach the last 16 where she lost to Betty Pratt who was ranked fourth in the world.

Her 1959 trip to the Northern Hemisphere put her into the top echelon of women’s players of her time.

Ruia reached the women’s quarterfinals at Wimbledon for the second time being defeated by the eventual champion, Maria Bueno.

She also reached the quarterfinals in the mixed doubles with fellow Kiwi Brian Woolfe and the third round in the women’s doubles partnering Pat Nettleton.

Recognition of her outstanding achievements came after her retirement from the game she loved.

In the 1960 New Zealand New Year Honours, Ruia received a MBE.

Other early honours included life membership of the Aotearoa Maori Tennis Association and Tennis New Zealand along with induction into the Maori Sports Hall of Fame.

Ruia Morrison, was appointed a Dame Commander of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2021 Queens Birthday Honours.

This year Ruia was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Today, Dame Ruia Morrison still lives in Rotorua from where she launched her assault on tennis fame some six decades ago.

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