EUAN WILSON-BAIG is aiming to follow in the footsteps of Andy Murray and a host of top tennis stars by attending an academy in Spain.
The 12-year-old Brooksbank student from Elland – a member at Huddersfield Lawn Tennis and Squash Club – leaves on Sunday to join the Barcelona Tennis Academy in Sitges.
The powerful hitter, who is taking part in the Sellers International at his home club, has been hand-picked to join the select programme, which he hopes will help catapult him towards his ambition of a professional career in the game.
“I’m really excited and looking forward to it,” said the Leeds-born youngster, who took up the sport when parents Norman (a doctor) and Ann (a nurse at a GP practice in Halifax) lived in Norfolk.
“It will be fantastic to be out there and to be involved in tennis the whole time.”
Euan will work under top coaches Rafael Maurer and Juan Carlos Baguena in Spain, where four mornings each week will be spent on academic work before tennis takes over in the afternoons. A further full day is devoted to tennis before regular tournaments each Saturday.
His father explained: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for him and, while we will miss him, we want him to make the most of it.
“The people over there have seen a lot of potential in Euan and he is going with the prospect of doing a lot of training and coaching, playing in a lot of tournaments and, hopefully, developing his game because he does want to become a professional down the line.
“The attraction of going to Barcelona Tennis Academy is that it’s not too big like some of the others. They have around 10 to 15 youngsters and devote a lot of one-to-one time with them, so hopefully he will benefit a lot from that.
“He knows it will be very intensive, but the academy has been open for two years now with the aim of developing players, and Euan is excited about it because he just loves the game.”
Ranked 15th in the country at Under 12 level earlier in the year – he was formally No1 in Yorkshire but is now No3 having not played enough tournaments to pick up necessary ranking points – Euan is on the Future Stars Programme being run by the Lawn Tennis Association.
He has just played in the County Cup as Yorkshire’s No1, beating Lancashire No1 George Hutchings 5-3 5-4 in a thrilling match, and he followed that up by playing for the Yorkshire Under 14s in the same event.
Having played the game since he was seven – he’s been an Edgerton member since 2008 – he has had to give up on football and cricket (he played for Elland CC juniors, Heavy Woollen and West Yorkshire West) to focus on tennis, where he’s been coached at Huddersfield by head coach Becky Lee and his current tutor, Andy Banks.
“The club at Huddersfield has been absolutely fantastic and instrumental in his early development,” said Norman.
“Becky Lee has been brilliant from the outset, the club have subsidised his coaching here and tried their best to help him out in what is an expensive sport, and Euan has formed a great relationship with Andy Banks, under whom his game has come on leaps and bounds over the past 18 months. Euan also hits with Yorkshire No1 Kyle Brassington, who he gets on well with, and that’s been a massive help as well.”
Coach Banks, understandably, is optimistic the club prospect will do well in Spain.
“Euan has come along really well,” he said. “He is a powerful hitter and we have made a few changes in the last year and a half which seem to have suited him and benefited his game all round.
“His hand-eye co-ordination is very good and his timing of the ball excellent and, best of all, he has a genuine love of the game – he just can’t get enough of it.
“That passion for the game will always come through and it will help to take him a long way, but the main thing is this is an excellent opportunity for him to build on the work he has been doing here and, with the qualities he has got already, it has to be a good thing.”
Euan, who was ranked the top player in the country at Under 10, will live with a family in Spain rather than at the academy and will meet them on Sunday with his parents.
“We thought he might be getting a bit nervous about it, but that’s not the case at all,” added his father.
“He is really, really looking forward to it and, as I’ve said, while we will miss him because that’s what parents do, we know in the long run this is great for him and a fantastic chance to progress in tennis.”
Anyone interested in backing Euan with sponsorship should contact Becky Lee at Huddersfield LT&SC.