Dena’s dream is Wimbledon 2011
Published at 11:26, Tuesday, 30 June 2009
CARLISLE tennis starlet Dena Daly is so determined to fulfil her dream of playing at Wimbledon that at the age of just 14 she packed her bags and left home.British women have improved, but critics claim it is only from the hopeless to the pretty awful – and that’s something that sticks like a tennis ball in the throat to Dena.
Dena has spent the past two years living 100 miles away in Bolton so she could train with other top youngsters at a tennis academy, returning only occasionally to see her family when her hectic schedule of tournaments and coaching sessions allow.
The 16-year-old lodged with the family of her fitness coach and has dedicated every moment to achieving her ambition of one day reaching the women’s singles final on Wimbledon’s Centre Court – though critics wonder if they will ever see a British girl hitting the heights again.
The dream is to be playing at Wimbledon within the next two years, and Dena is determined to live up to her potential and be part of a generation that can end years of failure in the British game.
Leaving home at such a young age sums up the personal sacrifice and dedication it takes for British players to try to make it to the top, especially when they have the added handicap of coming from a remote corner of England like Carlisle.
Dena is getting used to home comforts again after returning to Carlisle to her home at Tarraby, on the outskirts of Carlisle, as she is planning to juggle A-levels at the Richard Rose Academy with training at the Northumberland Tennis Centre in Newcastle, one of the Lawn Tennis Association’s high performance centres.
“It was very hard living away from home but I got used to it and I knew it was something I had to do if I wanted to try to fulfil my potential,” said Dena.
“It was very hard living in Carlisle and travelling backwards and forwards to Bolton – 200-mile round trips twice a week for coaching. The travelling was just too much and it was costing a fortune.
“When it came to starting my GCSEs I knew I needed my life to be more structured otherwise my school work would have suffered.
“The Bolton Arena Tennis Academy has linked with a local school so it made perfect sense for me to go down there.
“It was difficult at first as I would say goodbye to my family on a Monday morning and maybe not see them for a couple of weeks if I had tournaments.
“It was hard not seeing them, but I know that sacrifices are all part of being a tennis player and there will be more to be made if I make it on to the professional tour.
“I know I made the right decision as my game has progressed and I’m fitter, physically stronger and a better player.”
Dena has had a racket in her hand since she was just seven when she tagged along with friends for a game at Cavendish Tennis Club in Carlisle.
After only two weeks, she asked one of the coaches for one-to-one tuition.
When she was nine she won the Under-10 and Under-14 county singles titles and her potential was spotted by the LTA, who pin-pointed her for funding and coaching along with the nation’s best youngsters as they try to develop a future Wimbledon champion.
Since the age of nine she has been under the tutelage of LTA coach Andrew Wilkinson – first at Chatsworth Tennis Club in Carlisle and then in Bolton.
Moving to Bolton meant she could work on her game with Wilkinson most days and it has raised her to a new level.
She is ranked in the top eight at under-16 level in Britain and has just gained her first International Tennis Federation Under-18 ranking points.
After sitting her final GCSE two weeks ago, she flew out to a week-long tournament in Frankfurt last Saturday, and faces a hectic summer with ITF events in Edinburgh, Ireland and Portugal, as well as the National Under-16 Championships in Bournemouth and Under-18 Championships in Roehampton.
Aside from the heroics of Andy Murray, the appalling state of our game was summed up during the first week of Wimbledon when only two Brits made it past the first round of the singles.
Elena Baltacha, the only British woman or wild card to reach the second round, made a meek exit following a disappointingly lame 7-5, 6-1 defeat by lower-ranked Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.
“I can see the day when we will have a British woman in the final as I think we’re getting more and more great girls coming through, like Georgie Stoop, Katie O’Brien and Laura Robson,” said Dena.
“We are improving as a nation and we’re not that far behind other countries.
“We have been behind other countries for years so they are still getting the success, but that will be us in a few years.
“The LTA is opening up more and more opportunities for players, with good coaches and the opportunity to go to tournaments,” added Dena. “Just watching it on TV is a massive incentive for me to try to make it to Wimbledon. Playing there would be amazing.”
Dena is among the growing number of people who have been won over by Murray and she believes his emergence as a genuine contender for the Wimbledon crown can give the British game a major boost.
“If Andy Murray could win Wimbledon it would take British tennis forward massively, and give people more confidence that we are on the right track,” she said.
“He wasn’t one of my favourites as he was always moaning and complaining that things weren’t right, but he has changed. He’s knuckled down, trained hard and worked hard at his fitness and really improved as a player.
“He can help to take the British game to a whole new level.”
Next year’s Junior Wimbledon is in Dena’s sights and then this Carlisle smasher hopes to return one day to give the Williams sisters a run for their money.
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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