Ben Nicol is a pupil at Fallibroome Academy in Macclesfield, Cheshire and a promising tennis player
Up at 6.30am then breakfast (porridge with golden syrup and blueberries) plus a glass of orange juice. Get dressed and cross the road to the local tennis club for 45 minutes strength and conditioning with the head coach. Back home, shower, eat energy bar and off to school. Night off training tonight. Go to Windband practice after school (I play the saxophone and am currently up to grade 5 level). After windband, it’s home, tea and homework and then an early night.
Training at Bolton Arena after school tonight. This has been my main training centre for the last five or six years. It is an international high performance academy and the main one in the north of England. The journey takes 1-1½ hours depending on the traffic. I eat tea on the way there, usually pasta salad, fruit, flapjack and lots of water. The first hour at Bolton is group strength and conditioning with Howard Green and the next two hours are court based, starting with drills and moving onto points. We set off home at 8pm and get back around 9, then it’s bath, supper, homework and bed.
After school, it’s off to Bolton training again. This is a small group session organised by my own tennis coach and consists of four players. This is entirely tennis based for two hours and is a hard grind. Once home, I usually try to get to bed at a reasonable time.
The support I receive from school is tremendous. I am allowed time off to go to training and the teachers keep me posted with the lessons I have missed so that I can catch up afterwards. I am also allowed time off to go to national tournaments, which quite often take place during term time and are unpredictable in duration depending on how far I progress. An early start today, so up, shower and off to Bolton for 8am start. My dad takes me today and I eat breakfast on the way in the car (fruit bagels with Nutella and lots of water). First of all it’s an individual strength and conditioning session for one hour. I do a lot of S&C at the moment as I have grown in height a lot and this helps me with my speed, balance, strength and agility and also injury prevention. I achieve a personal best today, lifting 80 kilos with a squat. The next two hours are tennis based with my coach (Steven Fathers) and hitter (Simon Roberts). We finish at midday and then it’s back to school for the afternoon. After school I chill out as I am quite tired and need to catch up on homework.
It’s off to Loughborough tonight as I am playing in a mens’ British Tour event over the weekend. We stay in a Premier Inn as the beds are comfortable and you get a good breakfast to start off the day. I meet another player for a hit on the practice courts before the competition starts.
Up at 6.45am, shower, breakfast and off to the sports complex at Loughborough University. It’s only a couple of miles from the hotel so we are there in good time to warm up and have a hit to get used to the court. The variation in surfaces we play on can be quite dramatic from clay, astro, acrylic, carpet and tarmac so it’s good to get a feel for the pace and bounce. My favourite surfaces are acrylic and outdoor clay. My first match is 9am so it’s not long before we are into our five minute knock-up and the match begins. I am timing the ball well today and moving my opponent round the court. I manage to sustain the pressure throughout both sets and run out a winner 6-2, 6-2 in 1 hr 15mins. A great start, but it means another match later today against a tough opponent ranked no.14 in the country at U16. More food (pasta again) then I watch some of the other matches. There are some ‘full time’ junior players here who spend more time it seems out of school at tournaments around the UK, Europe and further afield than they do in the classroom. At 2pm it’s time for my second match. As expected, it starts off at a furious pace. I manage to keep up though and we trade service games. I just manage to close out the first set 7-5. The second set is equally tight and at 6-6 it goes to a tie-break. I reach match point at 7-6 up in the tie-break, but he produces an ace at just the wrong time for me and goes on to clinch it 10-8. One set all and into a third set. This is uncharted territory as it’s my first three set match. I fall behind early on and energy levels need replenishing with fluid and a banana. I am trailing 5-2 so it seems to be all over. But I find some extra strength from somewhere tand get back to 5-5. It’s not enough though and my opponent goes on to win 7-5. The match lasts 3hrs 15mins which is by far the longest I have played. But I am pleased with my performance because I never gave up.
A bit of a lie-in today to allow my body to recover from the exertions of yesterday. A session of homework is interrupted by a text from a friend from Bolton asking for a hit in the afternoon. I don’t take much persuading. We are back in time for the men’s practice at my local club across the road from where I live. So another typical week – 14 hours on court and 11 hours travelling.