‘It’s just like one big family’
Originally published on 11/05/16 00:00
“I was playing at a club in Essex but I moved to Spain because it was the best option for me,” explains Eleanor Baglow, 14, who started training at the academy last year.
“My parents were looking on the internet and they found a few academies. We went to try them out but this one was the best one for me. We saw that James Ward played here. We came here for two weeks and it was the most professional and there was a real focus on fitness – they don’t just focus their training on the tennis.
“This academy is right for some people and obviously not right for others. For most people it is a good academy and for me it is the best academy in the world.”
Under the guidance of her Portuguese coach Miguel Fragoso and assistant Juan Carlos Ovando (Kiloto), Eleanor has also worked with fitness coach Alberto Lledo to improve her fitness as well as benefitting from the expertise of physiotherapist Juanjo Moreno.
“My tennis has improved. I’m much more consistent, and I’m much smarter,” says Eleanor. “My fitness has also improved. I’m getting around the court faster and after long points my stamina has improved a lot. Also on the mental side I don’t get as nervous before matches as I used to and I’m enjoying the matches more.
“The facilities here are really good. They have everything here. The coaches are very professional they treat you like professionals and they teach you how to be professional inside and outside the court.”
While Eleanor lives with her mum in a nearby town, a 15-minute drive from the academy, her father works in Switzerland.
“I don’t miss the UK but I miss my family and friends who live there,” she says. “My home is Spain now. I don’t see my dad as much as I used to but I speak to him most days. He is very important in my tennis life. He wants to know everything about my day – he is very supportive. He understands me.”
Eleanor has been studying Spanish alongside her schoolwork, which she juggles alongside her training.
“I am at the academy every day but Tuesday afternoon I have off for school. I do Tuesday afternoon and the weekend unless I have a tournament and then the tournament comes first and the schoolwork after. I have two Spanish lessons a week with a Spanish teacher here and my Spanish is improving a lot.”
“I have many friends at the academy from all over the world. It’s just like one big family really. Juan Carlos [Ferrero] is here most days, I normally see him in the gym. He always says hello.”
Among the 50 full-time aspiring professionals aged 13 to 18, Eleanor looks up to Dutch 15-year-old Lara Panfilov.
“She is so motivated every day,” explains Eleanor. “She knows what she wants. She wants to be a professional and she will do anything to be a professional. She is an inspiration to the younger kids at the academy.
“I want to be a professional. I want to give it 100%. At the end of the day I am here because I love tennis, I want to come here and I love coming here every day, doing my best and going home and telling my mum that I did my best. I don’t want to go home not having tried my best."