Tennis player Emily will fall short without sponsor
When one of the World's top tennis academies tells you a shot at the big time is within reach, it's a dream come true – until reality bites and cold economics stand in the way. Emily Madill is trapped in such a vortex of frustration.
The 20-year-old from Drumbo has spent two years travelling back and forth to the Patrick Mouratoglou academy in Paris, working with and alongside such legends as Martina Hingis and Serena Williams and has now been offered the chance to sign a 30-week professional deal with her French coach Christophe Ficot.
But when you consider that an average week's travelling cost with a coach can be around £1,500, it is clear that Madill – an Ulster Open under-18 champion at 14 – is going to need a serious injection of finance to make such a move possible.
"My parents have been sent a letter saying that the academy believes I am now ready to go and play WTA events. Before they had said I wasn't ready but now I am but for me to live out my dream, to pursue my career I have to be able to pay for the coach," said Madill.
"Not many people from here get such an opportunity but there is no financial support from the governing body, Tennis Ireland or Tennis Ulster.
"I have been told that I can make the top 300 and then see where it goes from there but it's now or never. My mum and dad have got me this far and I want the chance to be able to show them that it wasn't a waste of money so I need support... I need sponsorship or it can't happen so it leaves me feeling very frustrated and I think Tennis Ulster need to do more otherwise what's the point in playing? What's the point in playing if when you get to my age and you can't go to the next level? They don't tell you that when you're younger.
"We have tried some businesses but they didn't get back to us but now my manager Andy Park is trying to go down different routes.
"I don't have the time to wait around, everything I have given up will come to nothing unless I can get the support I need..."
Madill says her game has been transformed by working under an intense regime in Paris, where she has become friendly with Grand Slam champion and former World number one Hingis as well as the current World number 23 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Laura Robson with whom she roomed for a period of time before the British number one moved on.
"Everyone is treated the same, because it's a small set-up it's like a family so everybody eats breakfast, lunch and dinner together, so I'd sit down with Martin Hingis and Serena Williams. And because Martina is the female co-ordinator she would be coming on to court and giving me a lot of advice. I have had many conversations with her and got to know her very well," added Madill.
"Apart from the advice I also got to hit with her and right away you could see why she became such a great player. She's one of the smartest players ever and you could see that with every ball she played.
"It was a pretty amazing experience to have her on court working with you... I remember the first time they said someone else will be joining us on court and on walks Martin Hingis and on the court beside me was Serena Williams, it was pretty surreal.
"They have worked on every aspect of my game but particularly the physical, it was so different, it wasn't like the general fitness I had been doing... they have strengthened everything and it doesn't take long before you notice the difference.
"I feel so much stronger and the mental side of things is so important.
"Martina has made it clear to me that 80 per cent of it is mental, that's the difference between the top players and those at a lower ranking and it's even more important in the women's game. These players in the top 100 go on believing that they will win.
"Over here it's a lot about being coached and coached but then when they go out to play they don't know what they're doing, they're not playing tactically, they're not building the point... there's no point being able to hit a great ball if you can't put it into a match.
"I started relatively late, I didn't start to get coached properly until I was 10 with Ben Neal at the Boat Club which was later than most but I was good at matchplay, I would run down every ball and fight for everything.
"At Mouratoglou, the mental, the physical and the tennis coaching is all around you specifically.
"My physical coach would be coming onto the court and working with the tennis coach because every aspect of the conditioning was tennis specific."
Clearly hitting with Robson, Hingis and Pavlyuchenkova has given Madill the belief that she can mix it with the very best.
"Laura Robson hit the ball very hard but hitting with her and Pavluchencko now 23 in the world and the number one and two junior in the world, two Russians I was comfortable with that... you tend to think there is a big jump from where you are to them but in hitting there isn't so it gives you the belief that you can go a long way.
"Of course when it comes to matches it's different but it has given me a lot of confidence."
But will Madill have the chance to fulfill her potential? Only if someone has the same faith in her as the Patrick Mouratoglou academy with the money to back it up.