Ever since Marcos Baghdatis played centre stage on the world’s tennis scene with his extraordinary run to the Australian Tennis Open final in 2006, thousands of young Cypriots have been inspired to follow suit. But what few of these tennis hopefuls know, is how difficult it is to become a successful tennis professional.

Success in tennis, that is, reaching a point whereby you can earn a living through the game, means reaching the top 100 in the world. A good indicator of whether or not you will be successful is if you manage to reach the top 30 of the ITF Junior World rankings. Even then the figures aren’t encouraging. According to the ITF, only 5 of the top 10 juniors in the world eventually reach the top 100 in the men’s and women’s game. In other words becoming a tennis professional is not easy, not cheap and with very low probabilities of success.

Much more feasible is to use tennis to get a scholarship for universities in the US or Europe and thereby get a great start on one’s career path. A new tennis training centre in Nicosia, will help tennis players do just that. Tennis Zone is beginning operations in the grounds of the Junior School, Nicosia and is welcoming applications both from beginners from the age of 4 onwards to more advanced players in their teens.

The Tennis Zone is the brainchild of Stelios Christofides and Simon Aynedjian, both parents of tennis kids. Simon is himself a top-ranked veteran tennis champion with over 200 local and international championships under his belt and a long-standing involvement in the game. His son is already showing promise and is in the process of developing his game in order to benefit from a tennis scholarship in the future. The son of the latter is already in his third year of a tennis scholarship at an American university, playing number one in his university team.

With arguably one of the best coaches in Cyprus, Akis Asproftas, as head coach, the new tennis centre has already attracted a high caliber of tennis hopefuls who want to benefit from his expertise. Having trained a large number of top local players, he knows what it takes to achieve high performance, as regards technique, strategy and psychology. He has a professional coaching diploma from the Osterreichische Tennisakademie (the Austrian Tennis Academy), and a first class coaching certificate from the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

While not just a training centre for high flyers, the Zone will also develop players from beginners onwards, providing sound basic training in technique and fitness, to an extent that parents and children will see noticeable progress from month to month.

Getting to a high enough standard in any endeavour requires putting in the hours of practice. In tennis this means spending hours on court, which necessarily requires a fine balancing act so that schooling does not suffer. The academy will offer practical advice to parents on how best to achieve this, so that their children reach their goals both academically and in their sport.

“More than just a training centre that teaches the basics of the game and provides an hour or so of entertainment a week, our tennis programme will also help kids find scholarships to top US and European colleges and universities”, says Simon.

“We wish there had been a centre in Cyprus when our son was growing up to have given us the guidance we needed in order to combine education and tennis and succeed in both”, Stelios says. “Through the experience we have gained over the years in following this very path for our own children, we will strive to make the Tennis Zone just such a place. We have a holistic approach to tennis and aim to help children to be the best that they can be on court and in life”.

When it comes to finding work after college, having played competitive tennis is a major attribute on any CV, because employers know that playing tennis at a high enough standard moulds a person and prepares one to handle the inevitable challenges of life.

“We know from experience how tough the game is and how it mirrors real life”, adds Simon. “Through our programme we will not only prepare children on how to handle the ups and downs of life, but through their success in the game, we will give them the tools to get a head-start in this competitive world in which we live.”

Classes have begun at the Tennis Zone since Monday 3 September.

For more information and to join call Simon on 99-437073.