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Rising tennis star set to defect to Cyprus September 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tennis Squash.
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Following our September 6, 2007 post > Andrew Thomas > the next new tennis star for Cyprus

A promising teenage tennis star has been caught in the crosshairs of two countries, with both Cyprus and Australia battling it out for his signature.

Seventeen-year-old Andrew Thomas is listed on the International Tennis Federation website as an Australian, but he played the junior boys’ singles tournament at the US Open in New York two weeks ago as a Cypriot, where he advanced to the final 16.
Thomas, who was born and raised in Sydney, is a former world under-14 champion and was to be offered a full-time scholarship worth $125,000 by the Australian Institute of Sport for coaching, accommodation and travel costs. His mother, Coral, was born in Cyprus and his father Tom’s grandparents are also from Cyprus.

Thomas has previously been a hitting partner for Cyprus’ greatest tennis export, 2006 Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis. The President of the Cyprus Tennis Federation, Philios Christodoulou said that Thomas, “first expressed his wish to represent Cyprus during Wimbledon this year and he met up with Baghdatis and his coach,” he said. “They then came to me saying that Andrew is a very talented young player.” According to Christodoulou, “Andrew was very keen to sign a contract straight away but we needed the approval of Tennis Australia, who were not keen on letting him go.”

According to The Australian newspaper, “while TA wishes Thomas well, behind the scenes there are serious doubts he has made the best choice.” Chief Executive Steve Wood said in a statement: “While we respect his decision, Tennis Australia is extremely disappointed Andrew Thomas chose to play for Cyprus in New York.”

Wood said Baghdatis and the Cyprus Tennis Federation had provided funding for Thomas’ US Open campaign since TA had turned down his request for a cash hand-out. “Cash hand-outs do not support the philosophy of our program, which is about resourcing environments and funding opportunities,” Wood said. “In Andrew’s instance those opportunities have included and, form permitting, would have continued to include, international tours and playing with representative teams.”

Christodoulou said that Thomas spent two weeks on the island in July with Baghdatis and also arranged to get a Cypriot passport. “His Australian sponsors have threatened to withdraw their support and pressure has also been put on his parents, by the Australians,” said Christodoulou, who added that the Cyprus Tennis Federation, “is willing to take over his expenses in order for him to participate in future tournaments.”

Despite Thomas, who is ranked 27 in the world under-18 category, representing Cyprus in New York, his future is still in limbo, and he has since returned to Sydney. “He doesn’t know what to do now and we don’t know whether we are going to lose him,” said Christodoulou. “It is the wish of the Cyprus Tennis Federation and the government for Andrew to represent Cyprus.”

Should he wish to continue representing Cyprus, Thomas will have to serve a period of residency in Cyprus before he is qualified to play Davis Cup or represent Cyprus at the Olympic Games. On his part, Thomas told Sydney radio station 2GB that playing Davis Cup for Cyprus was his aim.

“I’m seeing Marcos now in World Group two and looking to do even better in the next couple years,” he said. “I like the environment in Cyprus, as it’s a small community with nice people. I love it there, so I will probably head back there.” He added that Tennis Australia, “have not been supporting me as much in the last couple years, so I decided to play for Cyprus.”

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