|Joanne Hill – Tennis BC|

With the French Open just around the corner, Paris and France are on everyone’s minds. For six Canadian kids, including two from BC, thoughts of France came up a bit earlier than for the rest of the tennis community as they set off on an amazing adventure to represent Canada at two very special international events. It was the trip of a lifetime for most of us—but something tells me that it promises to be the first of many for these talented 12-year-olds! Read on to hear more about the events and to hear from BC’s own, Clara Vicol and Liam Suh about their experiences abroad! Anchor

Warm-up to main event and following in the footsteps of some of the biggest in the game 

The first of the two events was held in Langueaux, a lower-level, warm-up tournament where the Canadian players played up a category. During this tournament the players were put through their paces with their teammates, taking part in some training and played some singles and doubles. After that, it was on to the main event. 

The Open Super 12 Auray is one of the best U12 tournaments in the world. To put it into perspective, past winners include Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz, and Linda Fruhvirtova.  For the Canadian players, the purpose was to learn about travel with a team, with just coaches and no parents. It requires a huge level of personal responsibility from the kids on and off the court. 

Stepping outside of the BC Bubble 

Part of learning to compete on big stages in strange new places means being outside of their comfort zone, playing against players they have never met before, and learning how to handle big emotions and utilize tactics in pressure situations. There is something to be said for stepping outside the “BC bubble,” and getting a taste of what it might really be like to be a pro. It’s a life that appears glamorous on the surface, but it takes a lot of grit and drive to succeed, as well as a growth mindset—each of these kids showed a level of maturity beyond their years. It’s a tough life, and one that you need to embrace to be truly successful. 

Tennis BC’s Director of Tennis, Graeme Kassautzki, who travelled with the team notes that, “It was just such a great opportunity for the players to grow and to find areas that they need to work on and also to find their strengths—they all benefitted from the experience.” 

Q & A: Liam and Clara share their stories 

Of course, a coach’s perspective is one thing, but what does it look like from the players’ perspectives? The two BC players who made the trip, Liam and Clara, were kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions:  

  1. How long have you been playing tennis?

Liam: Six years. 

Clara: My parents took me for the first time to the tennis courts when my brother started Tots Tennis classes at UBC. he was about three years old while I was just over one year old, barely learning to walk. This is a picture of me at that time, which I always find hilarious! I started organized tennis classes when I was about three years old.

  1. What was the process to qualify for this tournament? 

Clara: I was offered this great opportunity to compete and to continue to develop, by Tennis Canada who supports and supplements my training as part of the Regional National Tennis Program.  

Liam: I had to be one of the top three boys in Canada to get selected for this trip. 

  1. How often do you train? 

Liam: About 11 hours a week of tennis, and five and a half hours for fitness.  

Clara: I train most days of the week. I also enjoy playing tennis for fun on weekends outdoors when the weather is good!  

  1. Do you play other sports? 

Clara: Tennis is the only sport I play competitively, but I enjoy many other sports recreationally and I am very active. I like table tennis, biking, wall climbing, scootering, and swimming.  

Liam: I used to play Division 1 soccer, and when I’m with my friends, I play sports like basketball.  

  1. What is your favourite subject at school? 

Liam: Math and PE. 

Clara: I like French and any subject that involves projects, especially art projects or writing. The bigger the project the more excited I get!  

  1. What did you enjoy most about the trip? 

Clara: I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this big event, and I was also very happy to meet again and train with my tennis friends. I also liked to see so many international players my age in action.  

Liam: Getting the opportunity to see the best players in the world and compete and motivate myself to work hard. Also, hanging out with good friends.  

  1. What did it feel like to play at such a big event? Was it scary? Exciting? Thrilling? Was it the first time you had ever made such a big trip?  

Liam: It was an exciting and thrilling experience for sure. Also, it was scary at the same time in the beginning. This was my third trip with Tennis Canada. I have been to England, and France, Belgium, Germany for a European Tennis Canada trip.  

Clara: Being part of such a high-level competition can be both a bit intimidating but also very exciting. I enjoy competing and I try to learn as much as I can from each experience. Playing on the central court was also an opportunity I will never forget. This was not my first international tour, and it was also comforting to get to know my teammates, the coaches and the expected daily routines.   

  1. Were your parents there too, or was it just the team and the coaches? 

Clara: I usually travel only with the team and the coaches, and I started this tour the same way. However, this time around, my mother was there for a portion of my trip.  

Liam: No, just the team and the coaches. Tennis Canada wants the kids to learn independence.  

  1.  Did you get to see some of Paris? What was your favourite place, if you did? 

Liam: We didn’t see the Eiffel Tower, but we went sightseeing in Rennes (City in France).  

Clara: We had a busy travel, practice and competition schedule, and we did not have the chance to stop in Paris. However, we did some pretty awesome local site seeing and I took wonderful pictures in Auray. My favorite place was also the port area in Saint Malo.   

  1. Did you try any new food? 

Clara: I did not try any new food, but we had a lot of crepes and French pastries!  

Liam: Yes, lots of baguettes.  

  1. Was it fun? Would you do it all again? 

Liam: Yes, it was really fun but at the same time it was tiring too. And I would do it again to get the chance to get a better result. 

Clara: For me, this was a great learning experience, and I am excited about future possibilities to travel again with the team! It was fun meeting so many international players and I also made new friends. I definitively hope to compete again in other big events! 

Tennis BC congratulates all the Canadian players, especially Liam and Clara! Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for our readers.