'The atmosphere is something else': Junior stars treated to special day at the BJK Cup Finals09/11/2023 20:22
It was a day to remember for the 48 young tennis players competing in the Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Juniors Finals in Córdoba, as they made the short journey to Seville to meet some of the stars of the women's Finals at Estadio de La Cartuja
By Molly McElwee
“Know who you are and believe in yourself," was the sage advice Billie Jean King offered when 48 of the leading junior players in the world arrived at the Estadio de La Cartuja on Thursday.
The next generation of tennis talent made the short journey to Seville from Cordoba, where they are competing at the Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Juniors Finals.
They got to take in the atmosphere, watching defending champions Switzerland take on the USA, and Canada versus Poland.
Players from six of the 16 nations – Australia, Canada, Czechia, Kazakhstan, USA and hosts Spain – were able to spend time with their professional compatriots behind the scenes too.
Earlier, they met Tournament Director Conchita Martinez, special guest and former Spain player Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and King herself.
The trio spoke about their previous successes in the tournament, and the young players picked their brains about the perks and challenges of being a professional tennis player.
"Believing in yourself is very important," Martinez told them. "Everything you do, do it with passion, and take advantage of your opportunities."
"I think it's good to write down goals," King said. "You should have a long term goal and then short term goals.
Afterwards, she added: “Meeting these young players today has been a special experience. Seeing the excitement and passion they have for this competition and for representing their countries is amazing.
"I hear there has been some great tennis played down in Córdoba, and I look forward to the day when these girls are competing at the highest level of the women’s World Cup of Tennis.”
A number of the players are 16, so will likely be in contention to play for their senior team in a couple of years, and the majority of them compete on the ITF World Tennis Tour already.
For now, they are mid-way through their junior tournament in Cordoba and full of ambition. "It’s very professional," 14-year-old Great Britain player Hannah Klugman said. "You really feel like it will prepare you for the women’s [event] in a way. It’s been really good fun.”
Experiencing a day among the crowds at the Finals in Seville also served as a huge boost, they said. “The atmosphere is just something else," Tyra Grant, 15, from reigning champion Team USA said. "It’s something you wouldn’t see in a normal tennis match, the fans, the support of your team. It’s honestly beautiful.”
“Being here today, I think will inspire us," Great Britain's Mingge Xu, 16, added. "Seeing how they operate on and off the court as a team. Hopefully we can take that into our team in our tournament."
Throughout the day the players were also part of educational workshops relating to integrity in tennis (delivered by the International Tennis Integrity Agency) and working with the media.
David Haggerty, ITF President, also met with them and said the visit was "hugely enjoyable for everyone involved".
“It was a great honour to meet with the junior players today with Billie, Conchita and Arantxa," he said. "The ITF’s important role as global guardian of the game is to provide the pathway of development from juniors to professional tennis and is integral to our mission of growing tennis for future generations, so to be able to link the next generation with current stars and icons of the competition has been fantastic.”