Bright young star

Winner of Medibank's Healthy Attitude Award, 10-year-old Dan Smith shows real promise on the court.

Tennis is in Dan’s genes – his father Doug is a professional tennis coach with over 20 years’ experience – and two years ago he decided he wanted to start playing more seriously. “I was doing a lot of footy, but when I saw my dad coaching tennis I wanted to be coached by him so I could get more out of it,” he says.

After about a year of being coached by Doug at the Wangaratta Lawn Tennis Club, Dan started competing in tournaments and bringing home trophies and medals. Four times a week, he travels 45 minutes to get to intense fitness training in Albury, doing his homework and reading books along the way. For two consecutive years he has been the winner of the Master Junior Development series in Bendigo for U11s, and he is currently ranked around 2,500.

But it’s not just his great form with a racquet that impresses those around him. Dan shows a sense of sportsmanship and maturity beyond his years, and his calm demeanour, sense of humour and positive attitude makes him popular among his peers. One of his classmates at school even nominated him as their hero because he displays this attitude at school, on the court and on the playground.

“Parents of fellow contestants have often commented that he lets players with less experience have a good match without just killing them,” says Phil Shanahan, director and head coach for Margaret Court Academy. “He shows a lot of sportsmanship and fair play both on and off the court. He has a great sense of dedication and a willingness to learn and train hard.”

Dan’s enthusiasm for tennis is infectious, and many of his friends have been inspired by him to take up the sport. “I told my friends to come down to the tennis courts and we’ll have a hit, so they started coming down,” he says. “Then they decided they wanted to be coached by Dad so they could get better and we could play doubles together and stuff.”

For Dan, the best part about the game is just having fun – though if he had the chance to play against a famous tennis player he’d give it his all. “My favourite player is Rafael Nadal,” he says. “If it was an intense hit I’d love to play Nadal, but if it was just a fun muck-around hit I’d probably want to play Federer.”

For more information about the Medibank Junior Development Series visit tennis.com.au

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