Erin Routliffe likens Lulu Sun's journey to her own

Thursday, 21 March 2024

Erin Routliffe can see similarities in Lulu Sun’s tennis career to her own as she prepares for her campaign at the Miami Open.

Routliffe and Canada’s Gabby Dabrowski are the No 2 seeds in Miami and play Ulrikke Eikere from Norway and China’s Hanyu Guo in the first round.

With a singles ranking of 155, Sun wasn’t quite high enough to make it into qualifying in Miami, but hopefully that won’t be the case for long.

Like Routliffe, Sun was born in New Zealand, but moved overseas at a young age. Routliffe represented Canada as a junior and for almost all of the time up until now Sun has played under a Swiss flag.

But they have both switched back to represent New Zealand and will be part of a formidable Billy Jean King Cup team playing in Changsha, China from April 8-13, that also includes Monique Barry, Valentina Ivanov and Paige Hourigan.

Routliffe says it’s great to have Sun as part of the New Zealand team.

“It’s amazing for tennis in New Zealand,” Routliffe said. 

"I think Lulu and I have similar roots to New Zealand. She left when she was around five and I left when I was almost five.

“We’re always trying to make tennis more popular in New Zealand and to try make better tennis players.

“There are only positives with this. She seems like a really nice girl, she’s had a lot of experience, going to college in the States and growing up in Switzerland. 

“I think this is really exciting and anyone who can bring more depth to our Billie Jean King Cup team is amazing.

“I’m really excited and I think everyone should be excited by this.”

After Miami the European clay court season begins, culminating in the French Open and it will be a new experience for Routliffe and Dabrowski.

“I’ve never played on clay with Gabby before and she’s had some amazing results on clay, so I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Routliffe said.

“It’s not my favourite surface, but I’m OK with it.

“I like them all. When you’re playing singles on clay you have to move quite a bit, which in doubles you don’t have to as much.

“It’s also harder to volley on clay and I would say clay is probably my least favourite surface, but I have had good results on it."

Routliffe hopes to play at the Olympics in July and Sun’s switch to New Zealand could provide her with another option for a potential partner, although an exemption would be needed from the ITF Olympic Committee. Paige Hourigan is also a potential partner if she can get her doubles ranking inside the top 300 and Routliffe remains in the top 10.

“I’m trying to play my part in order to get to the Olympics and I’m continuing to do that and work on it every single week,” Routliffe said.

“Obviously, to have options to go with another partner is ideal. I would like everyone to be in a certain ranking spot, to be able to go. Lulu already has a good singles ranking and that puts her in a good position, which puts me in a good position.

“I haven’t thought about it too much, but it definitely helps and it’s really exciting.”

If Routliffe does go to the Olympics, it opens up the possibility of her being able to team up with Michael Venus for the mixed doubles. To prepare for that potentiality, they have agreed to team up at the next grand slam

“We’re planing to play at the French Open together, with the hope that we’re both at the Olympics in Paris in July.

“So that will be exciting to play the French Open together.”

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