Young champ vies for tennis greatness

24 Jul

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By Rebeccah Shillingford, Bond University journalism student

The Gold Coast’s tradition of creating tennis super stars such as Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic is set to continue with 11-year-old Ricco Taplin.

This young tennis star is making a name for himself after winning back-to-back state titles this year, which pumped him up through the ranks to number 5 in Australia for the under-12 age group.

Rocco returned last week from a month-long international tennis competition in Europe and now has his sights set on the National Academy (NA).

“I want to be the best so I have to train with the best. My level of play is really going to jump up if I get into the NA. It would be awesome to be accepted in…my chances are looking good,” he said.

Rocco has made huge progress training with the Pure Tennis Academy but mum Flavia Taplin says the National Academy is the next step.

“We really need to ramp it up for him now. The National Academy is more elite and will provide him with the one-on-one training that he needs. They work on him mentally and psychologically as well as fitness and game play and they focus on him solely. This is the next step for us, he needs more,” she said

Rocco has had some exciting experiences along the way: invited to train at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) with the top 10 boys in Australia in his age group, as well given the opportunity to hit on centre court at the Pat Rafter Arena before Serena Williams played at the Australian Open.

Although exciting, these perks don’t come without hard work and this young talent certainly knows the meaning of it training four times a week for three hours at a time.

“At training we have two hours of hitting time and one hour of fitness. I have to train constantly to keep up my technique,” he said.

The saying goes that behind every successful man there is a woman, in this case the woman being his mother who too is hard working, is his number one fan, and plays a huge role in his success.

“I think he can be anything and do anything he sets his mind to,” she said.

Both parents work hard behind the scenes to get Rocco to trainings and games and organise his affairs but dad James Taplin has been his biggest support.

“The whole family has to be dedicated to Rocco’s success… we are very proud of him,” he said.

Getting accepted into the National Academy is not only a big step for Rocco but also for his mum who says she is now prepared for the next step.

“He’s going to have to train more and train harder than he is already,” she said.

“Before his Europe trip I wasn’t really prepared for him to take any time of school, I felt like school had to be number one.”

“But I think I’m prepared now, to let him take the opportunity with the NA, hoping that he gets it of course.”

“I’ve finally realised he has to do this if he wants to become a professional tennis player. The time has come now to give him more, as long as his schoolwork doesn’t suffer.”

Rocco has big dreams now, looking up to tennis sensations Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“I love Nadal. He is a really hard worker and is extremely dedicated to what he does. He is my inspiration, I’ve read his book… and Federer, well he’s just greatness,” he said.

Caption: Rocco on court in Italy

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