You can take Rebecca Dellaway out of North Otago, but you cannot take the province out of Rebecca Dellaway – well, its tennis team anyway.
The 20-year-old former Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil left Oamaru in 2015 and took up a full tennis scholarship with Binghamton University in New York in 2016.
But on Saturday, she found herself back wearing the North Otago shirt, and helping the team beat Dunedin’s Andersons Bay Tennis Club 20-5 at the Chelmer St grass courts.
Dellaway has packed a lot into the past three years.
In August 2016, her childhood dreams came true as she moved to New York to take up a full tennis scholarship with Binghamton University.
The 2014 Otago Open champion said the American intercollegiate experience was the best thing she could have done for her tennis. Coming from Oamaru, she had never had exposure to the sport at that level.
As a freshman, Dellaway, the only international player at Binghamton, was playing No 1 or No 2 in the university’s team of six.
“Generally all of the freshman are down the lower order,” she said.
played over there that had girls I grew up playing with in them and they were all playing five or six, or even reserve, and I was up at No 1 or two, so it was tough.
“A lot of the girls I ended up playing had been national champions in their own countries – I played the Portugal No 1 and the Morrocan No 1.
“It’s honestly one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had [for my tennis].”
Unfortunately, Dellaway’s journey in the States did not quite go as expected.
In the space of a few months, she battled an injury and illness and, in December that year, her team-mate, Stefani Lineva, was killed in a hit and run.
“That was tough, it was such a shock. The whole team was like my family, and I was going to be moving in with her. It hit us all pretty hard.”
After the death of Lineva, and suffering another injury, Dellaway started to re-evaluate her next steps and ultimately decided to finish the tennis season and come home to New Zealand.
“I did another semester because I thought I just can’t give it up, but [tennis] just wasn’t clicking for me – so I decided to come home. It got to the point where I just wasn’t happy and, especially after what had happened, life is just too short to be unhappy,” she said.
It was a tough call for Dellaway to make.
“It was all I was ever going to do, and I think that’s why I found it so hard – I struggled for a while because I felt like I failed when I came home,” she said.
“Everyone else was really supportive, telling me ‘you’ve made the right decision, you’re happier now’, but it was tough.”
Dellaway moved home to the Waikato, where her family is now based, and opted to take a competitive break from tennis.
“But I got roped in to play interclub for the premier South Auckland men’s competition,” she said.
She also made the main draw of the 2018 New Zealand Tennis Championships, but was beaten by Wellington’s Ivy McLean in the first round.
“I haven’t been training, though, and it’s been weird not training every day .. I went from having tennis in my life every day since I was 12 and then just didn’t,” she said.
A trip to Canterbury in October last year reminded her how much she loved the south and three weeks ago she moved to Christchurch.
She is enrolled to study law and criminal justice at the University of Canterbury this year.
She is hoping to get back into competitive tennis in Christchurch and play in some of the new Tennis NZ Kiwi Money Tournaments – and aims to give the New Zealand Tennis Championships a real crack in December.