By Jake Williams
My tennis career started at a very young age where my dad introduced me to the sport along with my two older brothers. We began playing casually on our local park courts in Bedfordshire. My dad was involved with the RAF where he played for the men’s teams and even competed at Wimbledon for the Air Force. My passion for the sport, however, did not begin until I was seven, when I joined my local club: Halton Tennis Centre. I got involved with the junior sessions on Thursday and quickly improved until I was able to compete in the county team for Buckinghamshire. As I progressed and developed I realised my love for the sport would follow suit and in turn I found myself playing most days with my brothers for up to three hours at a time.
It wasn’t until I turned 12 that I thought I could take this seriously. I entered a few county and regional tournaments and began to pick up a few wins here and there. As I began to play tennis more and more I noticed other priorities, such as hanging out with friends, took the backseat. This did not bother me as I was so enveloped in what I was doing and the results that came from my weekly training and coaching sessions were evidence enough to me to try to pursue this career. By the age of 14 I was playing in national events and consistently making county teams.
I had individual coaching sessions before this but no coach really stood out until James Morgan. James was a very established coach at the time and he had been at Halton for over 10 years. Once James had taken me on as one of his players the dynamic between coach and player clicked automatically. James knew what I needed to improve and ended up shaping my technique into what it is today. There are many hardships you go through as a tennis player and my coach always played a big role in helping me overcome those obstacles, along with my dad. As a junior tennis player I was extremely passionate about the sport and sometimes it was easy for my temper to get the best of me when a match wasn’t going my way. This is where my dad taught me how to control these emotions and not let them drag my performance down. I specifically remember playing a challenging match at the St Georges Hill tournament, I was a set down and felt as if nothing was going my way. My childish demeanour on court was affecting my performance and stopping me from playing my game. During the second set I took a tumble during the point at which time I was ready to give up until my dad came on court, picked me up and told me to “man up and get on with the match.” I understand this may seem harsh to some but I see it now as tough love and I ended up taking the third set tie-break 10-5. This moment will forever stick in my mind and was a pivotal point in my career and mental development.
Tennis was a passion of mine that I don’t plan to give up anytime soon. It’s helped shape me into the person I am today, as well as help me achieve many things I wouldn’t have thought to be possible. One of my highlights as a tennis player would have to be playing in the 18&U National event at Nottingham, competing in both singles and doubles. I was also fortunate enough to earn an athletic scholarship in the States where I played tennis for Southern Utah university. This four year experience is something I will never forget and in turn has built another platform to my ledger.
So where am I now? Well, I’m still playing tennis and I’m currently enrolled at Leeds Beckett University where I play for the men’s second team coupled with studying my masters degree in journalism. Even though I’m 22, I still love tennis and I won’t be hanging up my rackets anytime soon. In fact, I can’t wait for what is in store for me.