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Teen ace Peter Bothwell ponders American dream offers

By David Kelly

Ambitious teenager Peter Bothwell is facing a welcome but tough decision as he weighs up which path to take in his pursuit of becoming a professional tennis player.

The 16-year-old from Hillsborough is currently training at the Soto tennis academy in southern Spain but recently spent time in America where he visited two universities, Tullane in New Orleans as well as Louisana and both are prepared to make him scholarship offers. Each University is able to offer the value of four and a half scholarships to men and eight to women.

With both universities playing in Division One of the NCAA College system in the States, it would be a great opportunity for teenager who has also had interest from a third university, Memphis. While dad Nigel is in negotiations over the tempting offers from the the universities, father and son are also aware of the benefits of staying in the Soto academy set-up.

Overall, it is a very rare position for any young Northern Ireland tennis player to find himself in and since moving to Soto Peter admits that he has seen some dramatic changes in his game. As for the American trip, Peter admits that he was very impressed with the overall facilities available to athletes.

"The facilities are incredible, the gym is amazing, they have a proper athletics track, pools that has water that can run against you to help with fitness, everything you could want... a scholarship there would last four years and then after that you can look to try and make it on the pro tour," said Peter, currently ranked 618 in the under-18 International Tennis Federation rankings.

"I probably have to give an answer to the American universities within the next two weeks. It's nice to have Division One Colleges interested in you but it's a very tough decision to make because there are pros and cons with both set-ups.

"At Soto there is great individual work, I have my coach looking at me every day and there would be the chance of playing Davis Cup and that has always been a dream of mine. If I go to the States then that can't happen.

"But then, you look at the average age of a top 100 player in the world and it's 26/27 so that is a factor because I would be coming out of the American system at 22. But then if I stay in Soto, in Europe after another year then I could start competing and looking to get through qualifying and into the main draw in tournaments.

"I beat a man ranked 1300 in the world so I know I can compete but I want to do more than that so I need to develop a lot more, I need another year."

The Soto academy, where he studies and trains in a strict daily regime, has certainly opened Peter's eyes to the serious demands in every department upon a player wanting to scale the professional heights.

He added: "Physically I have improved a lot – when I first went I would slide out on the clay and I'd only be able to slice a forehand and backhand but now I can get out and hit a proper forehand and backhand.

"My legs are stronger, so my recovery is better... when I went out I was light now I have put on weight and it's effective weight.

"There has been an overall whole body development and my flexibility is great now, when I went I could just about touch the ground with finger tips, now my whole palms can do it.

"They have been great for me, there's a real family feel to it – I feel right at home and I feel really good about my game so making the decision about America isn't easy."

Belfast Telegraph


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