Jose Higueras, former coach of Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, has spent this week in Scotland passing on his extensive knowledge of the game to some of the most promising young players in Britain.
The Spaniard, who has coached the likes of Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Pete
Sampras, has been at the GB National Tennis Academy at the University of Stirling all week working with the eight young players who are based there.
The centre is one of two bases set up by the Lawn Tennis Association last summer to provide top-class coaching to young players and eight children, aged between 12 and 16 from across Britain, were invited to combine their tennis development with their education at Dollar Academy in a programme run by Tennis Scotland.
Higueras, himself a former world top-10 player and French Open semi-finalist, was delighted at the chance to work with the players and relished the opportunity to speak to them about what it takes to make it to the very top in the sport.
“I try to show them what it takes to be a good tennis player with the discipline and the passion and engagement it takes on a daily basis,” he said.
“That’s one thing you see in general with a lot of players and kids, there is not enough continuity with that engagement and effort on a daily basis. It counts a lot more to do something when you don’t feel like doing it than doing something when you feel great.
“You never know how you can run until you invest yourself 100 per cent in it.
“That’s the message I give them – if somebody else did it, it means you can do it. But at the same time, the main message is what it takes to give you a chance.
“If you do everything right, your chances of becoming a great tennis player are not good. But they are not good for anybody because of the level of skill and how difficult it is.
“If you do everything in your power, you never know what’s going to happen. If
you don’t, you will never maximise your potential.”
The programme was devised by head coach Leo Azevedo, who worked in similar set-ups in the United States and Spain.
The idea is to give young players the best possible education to capitalise on the legacy of Andy Murray, who left Dunblane to go to the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona when he was 15.
There is only one single Scot in the 8-strong group currently at the centre, with 15-year-old Matthew Rankin from Edinburgh the only home-grown player to make the cut in this year’s intake.
Unsurprisingly, the teenager sees Andy Murray as a role model and aspires to achieve what the two-time Wimbledon champion has in the game.
“Andy Murray is my favourite tennis player and it motivates me to be like him,” Rankin said.
“I have watched him all my life and met him a couple of times and spoken to him a couple of times and now it just inspires me to be like him. I want to push myself to the best level I can be.
“I’m proud I am the only Scot flying the flag and I want to continue that so I can make people proud and do it for myself.”
It was a major coup for Tennis Scotland for the LTA to choose to base one of their centres in this country and Tennis Scotland chief executive, Blane Dodds, is hopeful it will help develop players who can follow in the footsteps of the Murrays.
“We are bringing a world-class coaching team and a world-class programme to Scotland,” he said.
“That has been our ambition on the back of the success of Andy and Jamie and Gordon Reid, world-class performers.
“Andy is a special case, not everyone is going to be world number one. There is no magic wand. But we can deliver the best possible programme to develop players the best they can be and take them into world tennis as far as they can get.
“Part of the programme Leo has put together is a lot of foreign tournaments and training, and that’s very important.”