Filippino Phenom Update: 13 Year Old Wins In ITF 18s
This is a letter from a prominent Filipino tennis coach who is presently guiding a very talented 13 year old who is so good he was offered a scholarship by the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, FL. I think there are some interesting points Tennis-prose.com readers will find insightful and instructive in this letter…
AJ WINS HIS 1 ST ROUND MATCH AGAINST A TOUGH OPPONENT
Dear Congressman and Everybody,
Since joining the ITF 18 under World Junior Circuit just this June in Indonesia where in AJ has played only a total of 4 tournaments this year I could see the progress and improvements of this young 13 year old player and I believe 2 or 3 years from now he will be a top 50 or even a top 20 player in the world given the right coaching, training and continuous exposures in international competitions around the world. If everything goes well he can break top 10 by 17 years old or maybe top 5 in the world rankings and who knows a Grand Slam Junior champion or finalist? Why not dream big for Philippine tennis? AJ has shown last year he has what it takes when he reached the finals of the tough Grade A Orange Bowl 12 under World Championships in Florida after going through 200 plus qualifiers. This is no easy task and Nick Bolletteri Tennis Academy in the US even offered this kid a scholarship which showed AJ has the pedigree to achieve big things in tennis. Why did I say all of these things and what gave me the idea that AJ can do all these things if given the proper support and guidance? It’s because this kid has talent, a good physical frame, his intelligent, has a fighting heart, a good listener to coaching, a hard worker and most importantly big weapons at 13 years old that can and will continue to improve as he gets more expose in international competitions and training around the world.
In my assessment AJ at 13 years old now is already playing like a top 300 or 400 18 under player in the world which is a very positive sign. If you look at the ITF world rankings the majority of players ranked at this level are aged between 16 to 18 years old, 3 to 4 years older than AJ. I came up with this assessment because I saw personally since AJ joined the ITF 18 under junior tour last June the players he has beaten whose rankings are above him and are 3 to 4 years older than him. Last June AJ defeated a player from Taipei ranked 200 plus in the world who won the 1st leg of ITF Jakarta, he also beat in that same circuit an Indian player ranked in the top 300 and winner of the Brunei and India ITF Junior tournaments, in HK ITF Grade 3 just last month after going through qualifying he defeated a player from Thailand ranked in the top 500 and the finalist of the 1st leg ITF Jakarta and today he defeated Pak of HK who is ranked in the top 400 plus in the world rankings 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 here in the Malaysian ITF tournament for his 2nd Grade 3 event only of this year. Tomorrow will be a bigger test for the young player when he goes against the no. 3 seed from Great Britain and a top 200 player in the world but I am expecting a tough fight and a battle.
Suresh Menon the ITF head for junior development in Asia a contemporary of mine when we were juniors and a good friend was quite impress with AJ’s forehand and game. He also saw that he lost weight compared to the last time he saw him in Manila last year for the 14 under ATF which he said was a major factor on why he is starting to play to his true potential.
Australian Charlie Fancutt a former Wimbledon men’s singles player who upset Ivan Lendl before also talked to me about the young AJ and said he’s got the ability to go really far in the near future. But again as I have told AJ all of these praises are just words right now and a lot of hard work, dedication, coaching, training and financial support are needed to make this dream a reality.
Today’s match was a good test for AJ and his opponent was no push over. AJ was down a set and a break of serve at 2-1 when I told him to call the roving umpire since his opponent was just cheating so badly. There are no chair umpires here in Malaysia Grade 3 and it was a good test for AJ on how he will handle this situation. We have talked about this scenario so many times in training and now this is the reality.
After calling the attention of the umpire AJ came back to the court firing and as if he was angry in a positive way and I can see he was pissed off for losing the 1st set and being down a break. In the 1st set he was trying to rush his shots too much and going for the early winners which produced so many errors that contributed to him losing the set. I signaled him to clam down and rally first before going for the big forehand. AJ responded and this strategy slowly paid off and wore down his opponent.
In the 3rd set his opponent just slowly gave up due to the immense humidity and heat here in Kuching which I remember Jeson struggled before in his first Grade 1 in Kuching 2 years ago losing in the 1st round of the qualifying. AJ is in great shape and our training for the past 2 days under the hottest time of the day paid off and AJ was able to handle the heat and humidity with no problems.
Maika on the other hand has been training hard and is really hitting the ball very solid and consistent. She is in better shape than before and I think and believe she is ready for her match tomorrow after receiving a 1st round bye due to her no.7 seeding in the tournament. Maika is starting to look and play like a top player and I am confident she will do well in this circuit and I can sense a lot of confidence in her which I never saw before. Her time is coming and with continued coaching, training and hard work she will achieve her goal and an ITF title just around the corner.
Well got to go for now and until next time God bless to all.