Sportlight, Sports

Alysa Elliott – “I Love Playing Tennis”

Alysa Elliott is an up and coming tennis player who has the potential to go all the way if she continues playing the sport at the level at which she currently plays it.

Elliott is a Form 4 student of St. Joseph’s Convent and a member of St. Anne’s House. She has been playing tennis from the age of four working her way up through the junior ranks.

Female tennis player Alysa Elliott. (Photo: Anthony De Beauville)

Locally she is currently seeded at No.3 in the Under 16s, No.2 in the 18s category and regionally, she is ranked at No.25.

This reporter interviewed the 15-year-old this week while in training at the National Tennis Centre (NTC) in Beausejour under the watchful eyes of renowned tennis player now coach, Vernon Lewis.

“I love playing tennis. I had to choose between swimming and tennis. I started playing tennis at the age of four years, and have been playing since then. I did swimming for a while at the Rodney Heights Aquatic Centre (RHAC), but I had to choose whether to continue. I chose to focus on my tennis. I also like basketball but yet again I don’t get the time to play, but I watch it a lot on Television.

The first tournament for 2021 commences in January and currently, it’s on hold following a third wave of the Covid -19 pandemic.

Online is a bit challenging because it’s harder to take in the various topics, but it has its upsides, it is more flexible and some of the assignments if you’re not sure about, you do some research. We don’t have live classes every day, we have a schedule of activities. ”

What academic subjects do you like or do you have a preference for? And what about challengers/ Do you have any?

“I like mathematics, but has a preference for Physical Education (PE). In terms of challenges, there are a few, but with online schooling and the coronavirus situation, it’s harder to get on the court especially with no competition, making it a bit harder to remain fit.”

How much has that aspect affected you, knowing that you had a goal for 2021?

“Before the coronavirus started, I trained six days a week depending on if I have school lessons. At present I train three days a week, the motivation has dwindled slightly. It’s a lot of pressure. So I am trying to stay fit at the highest level possible.”

Is there any pressure on you while on the court, when your parents and brother are watching you compete?

“Yes, especially my mom, I don’t want to disappoint anyone so I try my best, my mom is very nervous and it makes me nervous too; other than that, not much pressure from other people watching from the bleachers.”

In your last game in the TOGS Tennis Classic in January, you played Jorja Mederick in a marathon spell; it lasted 2 hours 15 minutes. You won 6-4, 6-4. It was windy for both players, how did you handle the adverse conditions?

“There are a lot of tactics you can use to try to counter the windy condition, I just had to focus and stay in my zone.”

There are various tennis strokes, such as the forehand, backhand, volley etc. At what point in your game do these come into play?

“As you get on the court, the forehand and backhand are basic strokes, and they are the first thing you learn in tennis; how much you use the various strokes, it depends on your game style against your opponent”.

You have played Iyana Paul and Jorja Mederick before, which of the two you rather compete against on any given day?

“Jorja is my friend, I prefer not to play her. Iyana is also a very good player; she poses a challenge likewise Jorja. I don’t know but that will depend on the draw.”

In terms of Idol, who is your international female player and the reason why?

“Serena Williams, I love watching her play. I based a lot of my game on shots I have seen her play and her game style”.

What is your game plan, the thinking when you leave home and you enter the NTC to compete?

“I get nervous, but I try not to think about it much. I simply stay calm and think about what I want to do on the court. I also try to get a good warm-up before I start to compete”.

(L-R) Nicole Edgecombe (mother), Alysa Elliot and Terrance Elliott (father). (Photo: Anthony De Beauville)

With the TOGS Tennis Classic still hanging in the balance because of the pandemic, what next for you?

“I have been practising and simply waiting for the tournament to resume when the all-clear is given by the Health authorities”.

You travelled to Trinidad and Tobago for your first overseas tournament in 2018, what was that experience like?

“It was a good experience overall. I like travelling, it was an eye opener. Playing in Saint Lucia there is not a lot of players and tennis is not a very popular sport here. When we travel there are a lot of players from different countries. You also see a lot of different playing styles, coaches and techniques. Some of the coaches also help me out a little bit”.

Do you think about your rankings or you just want to go out and compete and be that best player you can be?

“I don’t think about my ranking. I did not know about it until you said it.

Alysa’s mother, Nicole Edgecombe on what’s it like as a parent watching her two children play tennis.

“It’s very challenging, we started the children playing tennis when they were very young just for fun and honestly I had no idea what I was getting into. Having both of the children interested in tennis has been difficult, especially when they’re both on the court at the same time and I am the parent who primarily goes to all of the events because my work schedules are more flexible.

There are times when I have one child on the inside and the other in the backcourt and I am standing on the road between the two trying to give each my attention and your heart is going out to them and when they are doing well you related and when they’re not doing well, it’s heart-wrenching.

Tennis is a stressful sport, but one of the things I have also learned is how strong these kids are, the fact that you have to be out there on your own, win, lose or draw. The fact that at the end of the match you have to demonstrate good sportsmanship, you have to shake hands with the umpire and leave the court with your head held high.

Tennis can be very costly, we talk about it all the time because it is such a fantastic sport but as you progress in the sport when you are you and you just start it’s not that costly, but as you progress even down to the clothing becomes an issue because you have to wear specific clothing and it can be quite costly.

You can get clothing at a reasonable price, but there is a lot of pressure on the kids especially when they travel because most of the children from the other countries are sponsored. The sport is more developed in many of the other islands so when they go out they are surrounded by people who are coming in branded from head to toe and they are the ones looking like the poor cousins so the pressure is on parents to ensure that their children are not outfitted.

There has to be consistency in practice, there is coaching, you have to pay for it, it’s not a situation as they get to this level where you can simply have one day a week on the court, so my children play anywhere between three and six days of tennis in the pre Covid-19 era now its three days one and one. Then you have rackets, there are chances in grips and strings, it comes with a cost. It could be fabulous if we could have our children sponsored.

The parents are the ones bearing a lot of the cost. There are tournaments where the NTC does help. There is one tournament coming up in the summer in Santo Domingo and for those tournaments the Saint Lucia Tennis Association is able to help the kids with flight and so on and if you as a parent want to attend you have to foot the bill, you don’t have to go, but sorry, i an a psychologist so I do travel with my children.”

Any plans for University?

“Absolutely, we have had that conversation with Alysa over the years, she has had many passions. She is a good student and has a lot of interest. At first she wanted to be a Neurosurgeon; we have meandered our way through so many different things”.

“She was a bit nervous earlier in the interview, but when you know Alysa, she is a Phenomenal debater and loves to argue as strong as her focus is, so is her mind. These days she is thinking a lot about law, but she is narrowing it down to a few fields she is interested in as she is entering Form 5 and time also is narrowing in us”

Anthony De Beauville is The VOICE Publishing Company’s multi-award winning sports journalist. He works closely with a number of sports federations including the Department of Youth Development and Sports, the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee and other organizations.

He covers and contributes articles highlighting the areas of international, regional, national, community based clubs and schools sporting activities. There is never an off day as he stays busy... Read full bio...

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