Bella & Vicci: Falling head-over-heels for tennis

“My brother wanted to do it, and then I decided to join. And then I just kept on doing it, and then I eventually got good.”

During our chat with Bella and her mum, Vicci, we spoke about how families with no former personal connection to tennis can get into the sport. In fact, Bella only started playing tennis after she had a go at a summer camp, and even that was mainly because she saw her twin brother doing it!

 Do you remember the first time that you ever played tennis?

Vicci: “It was Star Camp wasn’t it? Because Tyler played and you were bored watching.”

Bella: “My brother wanted to do it, and then I decided to join. And then I just kept on doing it, and then I eventually got good.”

Vicci: “And he doesn’t anymore, as soon as you got good he didn’t want to do it anymore!

“They were about 7, which is a lot later than most of your peers. Most of the performance kids that she plays with now all started at like four.”

How did you encourage the initial interest in tennis to develop?

Vicci: “I think you just fell in love with it. You were a bit ‘Meh’ at first, and then you thought, ‘This is okay I’m enjoying it’ when you did your once-a-week on a night course, but then you went to a summer camp at a local tennis club, it wasn’t anything like the Academy that she’s at now, it was just a little local tennis club, a wooden shack which is the clubhouse.

“And you just met some really lovely friends, and I think the coach that she had was really enthusiastic and, yeah he still comes into your primary school doesn’t he? You just absolutely fell in love with it. Every week, it was like, ‘Can I do an extra lesson this week?”

Bella: “I don’t remember that.”

Vicci: “Oh you won’t remember, but I remember that because my wallet remembers that!

“We’re at a Performance Tennis Center now. She went to a few tournaments (just because she really enjoyed playing and it was an extra chance to play against different people). And I think one of the coaches from the club that the tournament was held at said she ought to go in and see Nuffield tennis. So then I told her coach, and he organised it. Then it started on a Thursday afternoon, having Thursday afternoons off school to go to the performance center and then the next thing you know, it’s Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and then it’s Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.”

What’s your weekly training routine?

Bella: “Monday it’s 3 and a half hours, so for like an hour I do a one to one lesson with John, and then I do a two hour tennis squad group thing with the older ones. Tuesday I do the same but with a different one to one coach, then Thursday I do the same again, but with another different one to one coach, and then three hours of squad. And then half an hour of strength. And then on Friday it’s just squad.

“During squad, we do loads of different drill things, like working on different shots, playing points and stuff against other people.

“It’s a bit of a mix of a group at the centre, some days they’ve got different people or some days they’ve got some the same, but more people on one day or less people on the other.”

Vicci: “On a Monday, you and Seville are the youngest at 11, and then it goes up to the 18 year olds who are off to Uni to play tennis in America. So there’s a massive age gap on a Monday, but on a Tuesday and Thursday and Friday it’s the Junior performance squad, which I think ranges from 9 to 12. But, the 11 year olds play each other, and the littlies play each other, otherwise it would just be carnage!”

Do you have any tennis players who you look up to?

Bella: “Raffer would be one, but I don’t know.”

Vicci: “You like Muguruza, don’t you? I suppose that’s because she’s Spanish and she’s got long legs and long hair!

“I suppose with the tournament’s not being on, you’ve not really had a chance to watch much tennis.”

Bella: “Before COVID we went to Wimbledon once. It was good, but we couldn’t walk around too much because we went with my Grandma.”

Vicci: “Because you wanted to go around all the practice courts and everything, whereas Grandma was like, ‘No, these are our seats, we are staying here!’.”

“During squad, we do loads of different drill things, like working on different shots, playing points and stuff against other people.”

“Keep trying, if you hit bad shots, you’ve just got to keep practicing the same shot until you get it.”

When do you think you realized how good you were at tennis?

Vicci: “Have you? You’re not the most confident of people. When people tell you that you’re better than you think you are, you don’t believe it quite yet. You got a shock when you were invited to play for Yorkshire and the County Cup, and I reminded you that you were like 5th in Yorkshire, and you said, ‘Am I that good?’. You really enjoyed playing against Lancashire and Cheshire.”

What’s your biggest goal with your tennis in the future?

Bella: “Probably get into Wimbledon. I don’t really care who I play, I’d just be happy to be there.”

If someone said to you that they were interested in tennis, what advice would you give them?

Bella: “Keep trying, if you hit bad shots, you’ve just got to keep practicing the same shot until you get it.”

Vicci: “And go find a local club. Lots of clubs are doing Junior stuff, and the LTA have started their new thing where you can pay – I think it’s like 40 pounds – and you get a racket, 3 balls, a T-shirt and like 6 lessons, all for that fixed price.”

What advice would you give to anyone whose child started to show a sporting talent?

Vicci: “I would say, just talk to their coach. That’s what I did, because I’m not a tennis player, I was a dancer. So when she started playing tennis, I was like, ‘This would be so much easier if you were doing ballet, I would know exactly what I was doing.’ So I just spoke to Sean, your coach, and he took it from there, really.

“But if not, I would say just Google local clubs, and maybe put your child in a Grade 5 or Grade 6 tournament, if you they’re good That’s what we did, we put Bella in a low grade tournament, just to see if she enjoyed competing and see what the standard was like, and you loved it, and you were absolutely fine. Then somebody there, like they did to us, may say, ‘Oh, have you thought about taking your child to your local sort of Academy?’. A lot of local tennis clubs are getting some really good coaches. Or contact the LTA, because they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

“Now, you’ve got some lovely friends from all over the country. Because when you go to the higher grade tournaments it tends to be the same group of kids who are there, so between matches they’re all chatting and warming up. Generally messing around.

“It’s lovely. As a parent, I love watching them all together, because it’s nice that even though they’re massive competitors and they desperately want to win, as soon as they come off the court (for the majority of them anyway!) they’ll all chat and be sitting around eating their lunch together, and then supporting each other if they’re gone through or not gone through.

“I think they need it because, on court, they’re completely on their own. There’s no teammates or anything, so I think it’s nice when they come off to just have that, ‘Oh, well done Bella!’.”

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