There can be no greater honour for an initiative that goes under the name of Junior Tennis Coaching than to actually have a Grand Slam champion in it's ranks and now that is a fact after Borna Coric took the US Open boys’ singles title.
Within less than a week the 16 year-old, based at the Northwood Virgin Active Riverside under the coaching tutelage of Ryan Jones, also became a fully-fledged Davis Cup player after making his debut for Croatia in the World Group play-off against Great Britain against the might of Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
But home grown, as well as Croatian, talent is abundant in the JTC squad as proven by the success of Beth Askew in winning the Under 18 Aegon British Junior National Championships. Three more players Jack Mcfarlane, Finn Bass and Ellie-Rose Griffiths all reached the semi-final stage of their respective age groups in the Nottingham-staged Nationals and coach David Felgate enthused: “It’s been a great summer for us. You can’t get much better than having a Grand Slam champion, but success is infectious and there is a mood of winning around which is a very healthy thing.”
Coric follows a Croatian tradition. The nation has something of a history of blooding key players young; in 1999 Mario Ancic made his Davis Cup debut at the age of 15 years 178 days and Goran Ivanisevic was still two months short of his 17th birthday when he first played under the old Yugoslav flag.
Borna looks set to follow in their footsteps but is glad he has taken a different initial route, coming to England and being part of JTC for his tennis education. And there were distinct reasons as pointed out: “Croatian people are a bit more relaxed; they don’t work so hard. When I am training it is best for me to be in Northwood where I can just focus on my tennis.”
Beth Askew underlines the work ethic on the leafy borders of Middlesex and Hertfordshire and became the first girl to defend her Under 18 title in 30 years. She beat Emily Smith 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the Under 18 girls’ final despite being 4-3 and 40-0 down in the third set to triumph. Nobody since former British Wightman Cup player Shelly Walpole in 1983 has managed to win back their titleand Askew was delighted to have carved out her own little space in the nation’s tennis history. “It is amazing,” said Beth who was rewarded with a wild card entry into the International Tennis Federation’s $25,000 tournament at Shrewsbury. “It means a lot to me so I was delighted to come through in such a great match against a competitor like Emily.”
Northwood local Jack Macfarlane was a semi-finalist in the Under 16 Boys’ event, Hertfordshire’s Finn Bass made it to the last four of the Under 14 Boys and Ellie-Rose Griffiths emulated the feat in the Under 14 Girls.
With a new year’s intake, the playing strength on the Northwood-based JYC squad is now up to 16 working with top flight coaches Felgate, Alan Jones, Jo Durie and Naomi Cavaday. “I look around at the new additions and feel very optimistic,” said Felgate. “I am very hopeful that everyone’s progress will continue on an upward curve.”
Junior Tennis Coaching Summer 2013 News
Barry Flatman (Sunday Times Tennic Correspondent) - September 2013