At a workshop in Madurai, a team of specialist tennis coaches from Tennis Alicante in Spain, train young players in the game.

“Use your legs more,” Jorge Logrono instructs a young trainee. “You use hands for power hitting but mobility is more important as it is a potential weapon to tire out your opponent,” he explains.

The 11-day tennis camp organised by the Indian unit of the Tennis Alicante, an international academy in Spain, introduces 29 boys and girls drawn from southern States to the nuances of the game. It gives the trainees an understanding of what international tennis is all about and what it takes to become a champion.

“We can also call this camp, a clinic,” says Rodney A. Dodd, General Director, Tennis Alicante (India). “We study every individual trainee’s strengths and weaknesses and work on that. We suggest modifications to perfect their game,” he says.

The programme covers tennis, physical fitness and psychological aspects of training besides guidelines for selection of shoes and racquets. Promising players from the camp will participate in a month-long camp on the clay courts of Spain. The academy at Alicante, near Madrid, offers world class training facilities for tennis professionals and upcoming youngsters. “The idea is to provide international expertise to Indian players. The coaches in our camp here have trained professional tennis players in Spain,” he says.

Some of them are Pedro Rico, Luis Escudero Soler and Jorge Logrono. Pedro Rico is also the personal coach of Roberto Bautista Agut, who is ranked 51 in the ATP. “Pedro Rico is now part of the Spanish Davis Cup team,” says Rodney. Logrono has given the trainees a fitness schedule to follow. He says the players in the camp are strong in technique. “There is no dearth of talent here. What they lack is on-court mobility,” he says.

One of the trainees is Nikki K. Poonatcha, a promising player from Neyveli, now busy participating in ITF Futures tennis circuit. He says: “The camp was very useful as I realise the importance of placements. Now I know where to place my serves.” For Madhumita Meenakshi, a class ten student of Le Chatelier MHSS, the camp provided an opportunity for her to correct her forehand shots. “Jorge helped me with them and now I am able to hit the ball properly,” she says. Then there are those such as trainee Rahul who have already visited Spain on a scholarship. He actually got the opportunity to hit a few balls with Raphael Nadal! “I feel more confident now. I have trained to play for longer hours.”

Fitness expert Fiddy Davis from Manipal University has worked on the health of the participants and Praveen Raj, an ATP approved coach, has assisted the team.

“This year’s list of players selected for further training in Alicante, Spain will be announced shortly,” says Rodney. Tennis Alicante-India has also planned to conduct more such clinics, talent hunts and tournaments besides taking Indian professionals to Alicante for training.

Just into its second year, the academy has already earned a name with some of its wards making a mark in ATP Challenger, ITF Men and Junior tournaments. But Rodney sounds a word of caution. He says: “I find most participants struggle to cope with their parents’ expectations. I understand the financial burden on the parents but in no way should they force their children. It takes time to get results.”