Q&A: Meet Vivian Yang, one of NZ's brightest tennis prospects

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

26 Apr, 2022
By Matt Brown
Matt Brown is the news director for Newstalk ZB Sport

17-year-old Vivian Yang is rated one of New Zealand's brightest tennis prospects, having recently made her senior debut representing New Zealand. Yang spoke to Matt Brown from Slovakia where she has been playing on the ITF junior circuit.

Tell me a little bit about how you got into tennis?

I started tennis at around four years old. I was born in Auckland but then the family moved back to China and I started playing tennis because I had a really bad immune system when I was younger. I was just always getting sick. Dad was not happy with how this lifestyle was going so he said 'you need to get into sport' and that's pretty much how I started tennis.

Dad just enjoys playing tennis in his own time and took me to the courts to hang out with my friends and eventually I started taking lessons.

China has invested heavily in tennis over the last 20 years. What was the system like over there?

The system which I was in was more like an academy base where there were a few coaches and the ratio of the players were always two times its size to coaches. It was like a team environment.

But the intensity is quite high; you are expected to train at least six hours a day morning and afternoon. So yeah, that was pretty intense. And I have to be honest, I really enjoyed that. Because when you're young, you don't really have much intention, you're just on the court having fun with friends. I had a really fun time there.

But it was really tough - I can remember just sweating and crying to mum about it. But I feel like it's all worth it in the end.

How would you describe being in the system in New Zealand and your development as a player?

I am really honoured and grateful that I'm involved in the Tennis New Zealand programme with great coaches and great teammates around me. It's a big change from where I grew up, I think because it's quiet. It's been a big shift for me but I'm really happy to have the team that all supported me throughout my development in my career.

Christophe [Lambert, Tennis NZ High Performance Manager], Matt Alexander [National Development Coach] and many others have helped me a lot through the times I've been in New Zealand.

Pre-Covid it was quite nice. Everything's normal, you can travel, no problem getting into places and getting back home. Since Covid it has been a bit more difficult - this trip has been a lot more complicated in the process of flying to places, hotels, you have to wear masks, and you have to have QR codes.

So that's obviously been a lot more complex. But I feel like recently things are a lot more lucid in Europe. So, it's easier to get around.

In terms of your game, Billie Jean King Cup captain Marina Erakovic described you as an aggressive lefty with a big forehand. Which is a strength. What's your weakness?

I'm really happy that Marina shares that with everyone. She told me specifically that my game was one of the toughest for her to play. And I'm glad to hear that because that's a big step, people I know would never tell me that. But yeah, I really like my forehand.

My weakness I'm not sure but I feel at the moment it's more about mentality on how I approach the game. I think I have the right mindset to do the right things. It's just I need to approach myself in a better way after losses and try to deal with losses a lot quicker and communicate with the coaches better.

You're not yet 18 and still playing on the junior circuit. I imagine playing the remaining junior Grand Slams is a big goal?

The goal for me this year is trying to get to Wimbledon and the US Open juniors. The most important thing is just trying to build my game, regardless of the results or ranking, just getting into match play with international players and trying to see how everyone else approaches tennis juniors.

I think just a step outside of New Zealand is a big achievement for me this year already.

You must be starting to have conversations about whether to turn pro next year or whether to go down the US college route?

It's quite hard for me to decide because in tennis a lot of things are decided by ranking. That really determines where your pathway is going to be. I'm not really sure yet because my goal is just trying to see at the end of this year, how much I enjoy playing tennis. As long as I enjoy it, I think I'll keep playing, hopefully a few ITF senior tournaments if I can get in and some in New Zealand just in case if I have the chance to play them back home, that's always something I really look forward to during the year.

I was never a big fan of the US college system. I grew up in an academy and I feel like the environment is very similar to perhaps where all the other players are trying to head off to and I just feel like I've had that feeling when I was younger.


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