Tennis NZ high performance director Christophe Lambert quits to coach Bianca Andreescu

Christophe Lambert will fly out of New Zealand next week to start working with Bianca Andreescu.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

Christophe Lambert will fly out of New Zealand next week to start working with Bianca Andreescu.

Tennis New Zealand is looking for a new high performance director, with Christophe Lambert moving on early next month to become Bianca Andreescu’s coach.

Lambert, who took over the position from Simon Rea in March 2020, was previously the national coach at Tennis NZ, but he will leave next week to become the coach for the 2019 US Open winner.

“An opportunity came to Christophe that was too good for him to turn down. So I’m really excited for him about this opportunity,” Tennis NZ CEO Julie Paterson said.

“When he told me, I thought it would be a great step for him.

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Lambert said he was excited by the new challenge, to help the Canadian 22-year-old.

“Bianca asked me to coach her and I accepted the job. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Lambert said.

Bianca Andreescu won the US Open in 2019, but has been plagued by injuries for much of the time since then.

Frank Franklin II/AP

Bianca Andreescu won the US Open in 2019, but has been plagued by injuries for much of the time since then.

Lambert worked with Andreescu when she was younger, at a time when he was working for Tennis Canada and they have stayed in touch over the years since.

“It wasn’t like every week or every month. It’s always good to have people calling you when you are up, but when she was down I was checking on her and giving her my opinion.”

With Lambert departing, Paterson said Tennis NZ would look at its high performance structure, to decide what sort of person they want coming in.

“We are going to review our current team that is working in high performance. Have a look and see where our gaps are and see what we need to do to replace that role.

“That will happen over the next four to six weeks. With it being one of our senior management roles within Tennis NZ, it’s a discussion that needs to be had with the board as well, so it’s not a quick replacement.

“I’ll be working through that over the next two to three weeks and we have got coaching cover in place that will take us through to mid to late January.”

Lambert wasn’t replaced as national coach when he moved into the high performance director role, although due to Covid-19 and the border situation, there was less need for a full-time coach to travel the world with the country’s best young players.

But since the borders have been open Lambert has spent a lot of time traveling and Paterson said this was also something that will be taken into consideration when making the next appointment.

Tennis NZ is still largely working within the structures set up by Rea for its player development, identification and pathways, although some modifications were made to it under Lambert’s leadership.

Whoever comes in, will be expected to continue with what’s already been established, rather than starting everything from scratch.

“The board is very committed to the approach of our high performance development throughout the country,” Paterson said.

“We continue to review and revise as we go, but at the moment we’re not seeing a significant change.”

New Zealand hasn’t had a woman ranked inside the top 100 in singles since Marina Erakovic dropped out of it in 2015, while you have to go back to Brett Steven in 1997 to find the last Kiwi male with a top 100 singles ranking.

High performance directors and Tennis NZ coaches have come and gone since then and there’s still no sign of any Kiwi cracking the top 100 anytime soon.

New Zealand’s highest ranked female player in singles is Monique Barry at 897 and the highest male is Rubin Statham at 528. The top ranked junior is Jack Loutit at 47 in the world.

But to be fair to Lambert, the fruits of his labor won’t come through for at least a couple more years and there are some younger players who are showing promising signs.

But clearly previous Tennis NZ plans haven’t worked and time will tell if the current model will be successful.

“When Simon took over the role five years ago, he always indicated this was a long-term strategy and it’s not a quick fix,” Paterson said.

“People want results today, but to create an opportunity for a New Zealand player to be in the top 100 is going to take significant time.

“We have to remain committed and patient to know that it takes time to build a system that is going to allow the best players to get the best opportunities.”

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