YMCA St Paul’s Group, which is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year, has a long and proud tennis tradition in the Boroughs of Merton and Kingston, with the tennis legend Roger Taylor being the most notable tennis star to have lived at the YMCA hostel in Wimbledon in the 1970s.
Later, Mr Taylor even said that “if it hadn’t been for the YMCA, I wouldn’t have made it in the sport of tennis”.
Although it is some years now since Roger Taylor stayed at the YMCA, tennis is still flourishing and there are some really talented young players training on the tennis court at YMCA Hawker in Kingston.
Tennis coach Nick Wheatley is really pleased with how his students have performed this season, and he has high hopes for 2015. He says:
“I’m thrilled that we have had another very good year, but my focus now is very much on preparing for 2015, especially AEGON Team Tennis, which runs from April to June and will see us have four Hawker Jets teams competing from under 9’s up to under 16’s”.
Gary Pitman and Joseph Taylor are 13 years old and belong to the Hawker Jets squad, which consists of players who train two to three times a week and compete regularly. The squad focuses on all aspects of tennis; physical, mental, tactical, and technical.
They have both been playing for the Hawker Tennis Club since they were around 6 years old, and were responsible for the Club’s 2012 Surrey Little League Title.
“I love tennis! I love all racket sport. Tennis is a good game to play,” says Joseph.
Gary adds that what he likes about the sport of tennis is that “you feel rewarded when you try out something new and it works”. They both agree that a good tennis player needs “concentration, focus, commitment and intensity”.
“We also work on set plays, which are strategies for confusing the opponent,” says Gary.
The two of them started playing together three years ago, and also compete together in doubles. Together, they have won the doubles event at the YMCA Hawker Club’s annual Summer Tournament for three years running.
They say that the reason they are so good, is because of their “commitment and willingness to play and practice two to four times a week”. Also, it’s important to have a good coach.
“Nick is a great coach, however, you have to be prepared to play regardless of the weather!” says Joseph.
Serves at 105 mph
15 year old Zino Arbane is a part of the YMCA Hawker Tournament Squad. Tennis coach Nick describes him as “currently our best player, and notably the fastest improver and hardest worker over the last twelve months”.
Zino has only been playing tennis for five years. He says he enjoys it because of the “competitiveness of the sport”.
In 2014, Zino had a really good summer, winning three major tournaments.
“The goal for this year was to break into the top 50 for this area, which is hard. But due to three really good weeks at the end of summer I’m now ranked number 27 in the county,” says Zino, who hopes to make it into the top 15 next year.
Being mentally strong is important in the game of tennis. “People say tennis is 80% mind and 20% physique,” explains Zino. “Nick has helped me lots with the mental training, like how to clear your mind and stay calm under pressure”.
Zino’s biggest inspiration is Nick and his mum, who also plays tennis.
“For a coach, Nick is very relaxed, but he knows his stuff and has the experience. Also my mum is an inspiration to me, although these days I only play against her if I have no one else to play with”.
This summer, Zino had his serve speed timed at 105mph, which according to Nick, “is extraordinary for a 15 year old”.
Zino says: “I think what’s normal for my age is around 90 mph. It’s a big advantage to have hard serves, because I know my opponents know about it, and hopefully is makes them a bit intimidated”.
Has played since he was four
Unlike Zino who only started playing tennis a few years ago, 12 year old Moritz Stuebing has played for eight years already, since he was four years old.
“Moritz really is a young talent”, says Nick.
“He has won our annual Summer Tournament three times, and our FA Cup Tennis competition four times. He’s also got five singles titles from Surrey LTA tournaments, and (along with Zino), was part of our U14 Team Tennis team who won a Surrey Division 1 title last Summer – this our best team achievement to date!”.
To achieve all this, Moritz trains three a week, both individually and with the squad.
“At the Friday training we start with fitness, go through the book and then work on plays,” he says.
“At the individual training I will do stuff like the P50, which is to hit one single shot 50 times. Also Nick and I talk about how I performed in the last tournament, where I can improve and so on. I do two or three tournaments a month and I also take part in the match play here on the weekends. Nick is a really good coach. When you don’t know what to do he motivates you and he is creative and helps you improve,” he says.