Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Tennis

Mum's net gain for ace peter

Louise works starlet son's ticket to big time chance in Spain

By David Kelly

Proud mum Louise Bothwell is going back to her own tennis roots to help fund teenage son Peter's professional ambitions.

Promising Peter Bothwell embarked on a great opportunity for any young tennis player earlier this week when he boarded a plane for Spain where he knows his dreams will be made or broken.

The 16-year-old champion from Hillsborough would love to follow in the footsteps of his mum (below), who played junior Wimbledon. But more than that he wants to make it as a professional and that's why his parents have gone the extra mile and set him up at the new Soto Tennis Academy in the south of the country where the full-time training programme, including accommodation, costs £17,500 a year.

A scholarship package helps ease the financial burden but there is no getting away from the fact that trying to make it in tennis is a costly business -- just ask Andy Murray's mum Judy who had to make huge sacrifices to send the Olympic champion to Spain when he was 15.

That's why Louise is now going back to work, coaching young players at the David Lloyd centre in Dundonald, to help put Peter through the Spanish academy.

"For us it is a massive commitment," dad Nigel said.

"This is the kind of place you have to go to to see if you can make it in tennis. We know that it will either reinforce Peter's love for the game or show him this isn't for him."

It will also give Peter, a member of the Downshire club, the chance to report back to brother Sam, two years his junior and just as talented with the desire to join him at Soto after he has completed his GCSEs -- just as Peter did this summer before making his big move.

The decision comes after three years of travelling up and down to Malahide three times a week to the Nugent brothers whose N-Zone training camp has a growing reputation.

That came after leaving the Ulster squad set-up and both boys have competed successfully for Malahide in the tough Dublin Premier League against adults.

Now Peter wants to hone his skills for the under-18 International Tennis Federation events which lie ahead, the points from which lead to a shot at major junior events such as Wimbledon, the French, Australian and US Opens. It is going to be a challenge in every way for the former Dromore High student.

"It was Stephen and Michael Nugent who recommended the academy to me. I will have five hours' tennis a day, one hour of fitness a day and three hours for my schoolwork. It's going to be incredibly intensive, a real change from what I'm used so it will take time to adjust to but I'm very excited," said Peter, whose first taste of tennis was sitting court-side in his pram watching mum Louise.

He added: "They have a lot of top juniors there including Britain's Josh Ward Hibbert who played junior Wimbledon, Liam Broady and this year's Wimbledon doubles champions Jonathan Marray and Freddie Nielsen also train there.

"It's a great opportunity for me. It's my dream to make it onto the professional circuit and to make the top 100. I know it's going to be tough, the physical side of things will be very hard, getting used to the heat... but there will be everything there to help me succeed."

The next 12 months will be crucial according to dad Nigel who was quick to praise the impact the Nugent brothers -- former Irish Davis Cup players -- have made on Peter.

"There are two options available to Peter and we can weigh things up after the year. He could try to go straight onto the circuit or he could have the chance to go to an American university and play in the college system there -- I've already had two colleges show an interest in Peter," said Nigel, who became disillusioned with the Ulster scene.

"Both Sam and Peter have improved so much under the Nugents," he insisted.

"They have a 100% positive attitude. They'll give the boys a four-minute rollicking, then it's over and they get down to doing what has to be changed and improving their game. And they also travelled with the guys and didn't charge us anything -- it's not all about money with them."

Now Peter has to go and prove to himself he has the steely desire to fight his way into the professional ranks alongside his hero Roger Federer.

"Federer is just amazing, it's all so effortless. To go and make it as a pro would be a dream come true," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph