Junior Orange Bowl Championships 2015
Every December in Miami, Florida, the best juniors from all around the world assemble to compete in the Orange Bowl. The event is considered the most prestigious tournament outside the grand slams, and is often referred to as the junior world championships.
Over 1500 players from 76 countries attended the event in 2015 including the BETA team which was made up of 7 players: U18 Anna Popescu, U16 Shanice Marshall, U14 Nathan Fernandes, U12 Joel Pierleoni, U12 Jack Pinnington Jones, U12 Jonathon Price, U12 Jack Batchelor and 4 coaches: Tyrell Diaz Stevens, Rodrigo Minozzo, Adam Coyne and Stefan Vojnic.
Orange Bowl Preparation
The team travelled out to Miami on the 5 December to allow sufficient time to get match sharp before the main event began on the 13 December.
As you can imagine, the playing conditions in Miami are very different to those found in England in December, so it was vital to get the team out on court practicing and playing matches. The Casely International Tennis Series – which is a series of 2 day tournaments that run throughout the month, offers the ideal preparation for the Orange Bowl as players have the flexibility to adapt their match schedule, allowing them to play as much or as little, whilst still getting in the all important practice sessions in the hot, humid and windy conditions of Miami. Anna Popescu and Shanice Marshall, who were not competing in the Orange Bowl, used the trip as a match play and training block to help give them a solid base of physical fitness and match sharpness ready for the 2016 season.
The first week proved very successful, with our players wining 10 Casely events and three runner up awards. With the heavy workload it was essential that the players took care of their recovery. The team would have regular mobility and stretching sessions throughout the day, with a longer more intense session at the end of the day to ensure the players were fully recovered and ready to start afresh the following day.
The Main Event
The Orange Bowl began in earnest on our second weekend in Miami, for three of our team: Nathan Fernandes (U14s), Jack Batchelor and Jonny Price (U12s) competing in the qualifying event and two: Joel Pierleoni and Jack Pinnington Jones in the main draw. When these big events start, staying fresh and getting the body and mind totally prepared for competition is one of the key factors to success, so with that in mind, all our players had at least one day off competitive play to hone their game before their Orange Bowl matches got underway. On match days we would work with the team to ensure that they would be pumped up and ready to go from the very first point. This typically consisted of a gentle morning hit for 20–40 minutes, but more importantly the team would do a short, but intense warm-up to raise the heart rate and get the sweat flowing just before stepping onto the court.
A lot of things can happen during a match and staying mentally tough throughout is essential. If you are winning your opponent can always come back, so stay focused! If you are losing, you can always come back, so keep fighting! At the end of each match, win or lose, we would have a debrief with our players. We would review the strengths and weakness, discuss what was good and pinpoint what areas of their game need improvement going forward. After a win, we would take some time to look at their next opponent and try and workout what weaknesses they may have and how we can exploit them during the match. Having a solid game plan going into a match allows our players to focus on the process, which not only gives them a better chance of success, but will help them stay calm when the nerves start to kick in.
Nathan Fernandes, Jack Batchelor and Johnny Price all made it to the penultimate round of qualifying before going out in tight matches, Joel Pierleoni exited in the first round of the main draw in a long three set battle, on probably the hottest day of the tournament. Jack Pinnington Jones went the furthest, making it to the last 16 of the event and was really looking good for the win after the first set, before his opponent edged his way back into the match, and eventually went on to win it in three sets.
The BETA team of 7 players spent 17 days in Miami and competed in a total of 95 matches, spending a total of over 250 hours on court. Our players learnt a lot on this trip regardless of results. The experience of competing against the best, and gaining an understanding of how the best conduct themselves on and off the court will be priceless moving forward. Well done to the entire team, and good luck for a successful year ahead.