Swiss-Kiwi qualifier Lulu Sun has continued her head-turning run at the ASB Classic – and is fast becoming a local favourite.
Sun, who was born in Te Anau and lived in Southland until she was five, drew a large crowd to her first round match on the outside court against fellow qualifier McCartney Kessler, with plenty of local support for the 22-year-old.
The world No 214 duly delivered, with an impressive 6-4 6-3 win over the American and admitted she was enjoying the experience here.
“I was like wow, so surprised, to see so many people - so touched,” said Sun. “I’ve seen people come and support me which is great and I am really honoured for that.”
Sun was a relative unknown at the start of the week but no longer. That’s partly because of her results – as she has battled through qualifying to make the second round – and also due to Sunday’s revelations that she is considering a switch of allegiance from Switzerland to New Zealand.
That’s an exciting possibility, as she would instantly transform this country’s tennis prospects, given her obvious trajectory. Discussions with Tennis New Zealand are in the formative stages and it’s hard to imagine they could match the financial support on offer from the Swiss federation but there may be other factors that make a move appealing.
Kiwi born player Lulu Sun in action during the ASB Tennis Classic. Photo / Dean Purcell
But that is a decision for a later date. For now, Sun is relishing a great start to 2024, only the second time she has progressed past the first round of a WTA level event.
“I am happy about that because it means I have progressed, I’ve beaten players that have been on top so I’m pretty pleased about that,” said Sun, referring to Sunday’s win over Viktoria Hruncokova who has been ranked as high as No 43.
Her only previous WTA main draw appearances came at Rabat, Morocco (May 2022), Granby, Canada (August 2022) and Seoul (September 2022).
The event in Korea was her career highlight, as she came through qualifying to reach the quarter finals, before being stopped by then world No 24 Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Regardless of what happens from here, her feats in Auckland this week will improve her ranking by at least 25 places, to inside the top 200.
Aside from some wobbles midway through the second set, Sun dominated Tuesday’s match. She only dropped three points on serve in the first set, as Kessler was under much more pressure. The next set was tighter – as Sun got a bit looser – but she always looked more likely, sealing the match with her fourth break.
“I had a little blip on the second set, a little nervousness but then I overcame it,” said Sun. “It is always good to play [in qualifying] because then you get your momentum going throughout the matches that you play, so in main draw you are like, I have already been here.”
In the second round on Thursday Sun will face either eighth seed Varvara Gracheva (No 43) or another qualifier, Czech Tereza Martincova (No 155).
Before that she will be in action in doubles on Wednesday, alongside young Kiwi Jade Otway. That was a welcome bonus - “I was like, we can sign in, but I’m not sure we’ll get in, because my doubles ranking is not that high”, as was the subsequent match up with New Zealand duo Monique Barry and Elyse Tse.
“I’m glad we got in and it’s kind of surreal that we’re playing two other Kiwis, that’s kind of funny,” said Sun.
Michael Burgess has been a sports journalist since 2005, winning several national awards and covering Olympics, Fifa World Cups and America’s Cup campaigns.
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