Rising star Ethan Hance can court greater glory, insists coach Ben Neal
Ethan Hance is a young tennis ace with a bright future, according to Boat Club coach Ben Neal.
The 12-year-old RBAI student raised a few eyebrows recently when, unseeded, he won the Ulster Under-14 title and sealed his place on the inter-pro team.
A highly competent gymnast, Ethan is putting that athleticism to good use on the tennis court allied to the coaching he has received from Neal, who has overseen a revival of the club at junior level.
Belfast lad Ethan has been at the Boat Club since he was six, training in the performance squads, but it wasn't until he started individual lessons at 11 that he began to blossom and coach Neal is confident he can continue to make big strides.
"This was a big breakthrough for Ethan. He defeated the No.2 and No.3 seeds and then we had an all-Boat Club final with Ethan defeating Alex Armstrong. It was pleasing to see both lads in the final," said Neal, who believes his protégée has many qualities.
"He's a very good athlete and he moves very well on the court, but I would say that the outstanding attribute is that he is mentally very strong. Whenever he's down he always believes that he can still win - that mental strength is so important. Tactically, he has improved a lot.
"But he's young and although it was great to see him with the Ulster title, there's a long way to go and a lot to be worked on. You can't get too carried away."
Recently, there have been a number of young players who have eventually moved on to scholarships at universities in the States and Neal believes that could be a possible option.
"Ethan has great support from his parents and the option of an American scholarship is something they may look at but I think that Ethan can keep progressing until the chance is there when he reaches 18," said Neal.
Champion Ethan added: "I have had a good season so far this year, reaching the finals and semi-finals of most Under-14 events I've entered. I was really happy to win the Ulster Junior Open Under-14 singles title, even though I was not seeded.
"I am aiming to be the best player I can be and be ranked as highly as possible in Ireland.
"I'm looking forward to stepping up my training again from September, but until then I have a couple more tournaments to play."