Irish tennis star James McGee is a player who is keeping his eye firmly fixed on the prize as he progresses up the world ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) singles rankings.
As the highest-ranked Irish tennis player in Ireland since the summer of 2012, and number 230 in the world ATP singles ranking at the minute, this amount of success and sporting prowess has not come at a cheap price for the 26-year-old Dublin native.
Constantly moving between different far-flung countries due to competing on the tennis circuit over 30 weeks in the year, the Irish professional tennis player finds himself in a different country every single week.
"When I am not competing, I do my training in Barcelona and return home to Dublin sporadically throughout the year – I would say I live a nomadic lifestyle."
His first memories of getting involved with the beautiful game are when his mum, who was once a tennis coach, brought him down to the local club, Castleknock Lawn Tennis Club, on the Navan Road in Dublin 15.
"My mum didn't have a lot of time to play and had to leave after about 30 minutes of hitting the ball with me. I was having so much fun, I started bawling my eyes out because we had to finish. I was about seven years old and just loved the feeling of playing. After that, I was hooked, and pretty much have dedicated my whole life to the sport since then."
At just the tender age of 17, he swapped the locality of Belvedere School on Great Denmark Street in Dublin for Barcelona, the most cosmopolitan, modern and avant-garde city in Spain.
"At the time, it felt like the right thing to do. I had been doing great in Ireland on the junior and senior circuit and decided to move to Barcelona to take my game to the next level. I embraced the opportunity to go over there and went hell for leather in my training with reckless abandon."
Unfortunately, the young prodigy trained too hard and sustained two stress fractures in his hand that put him out of the game for 18 months. It was bad luck and bad timing for the Davis Cup player, but he got through it eventually.
"It was a challenging time for me which tested my resilience. It was a good chunk of time to miss in my development; however, I came back with more perspective and appreciated the game more."
As a self-confessed sporting 'nomad', James played college tennis at North Carolina State University from 2006 until 2008 and has been voyaging the professional tour ever since – five years of living life on the edge with a tennis bag slung over his shoulder as his only form of companionship.
"My life so far as a tennis player hasn't been easy by any means, but it has also been very fulfilling and worthwhile. I have faced a lot of physical, mental, emotional and financial hardship over the years but also been given some of the most valuable experiences I could ask for. I am truly grateful for the life I'm having as a player and I am continuing to enjoy the experience, despite the adversity."
Having always been fascinated by the subject of psychology, the young professional chose to study the subject in university and continues to read up on the need for mental toughness in the sport.
"I tend to gravitate towards the area of positive psychology and personal development, and recently have delved into spiritual material. I am just so curious about the power of the mind, the power of visualisation and the power of our spirit.
"Tennis is 90pc mental and it is imperative that I approach my tennis and my life in the right frame of mind. I enjoy learning about the way my mind works and love the idea of facing fears and becoming a better, more confident person."
Travelling alone without a coach and a support team the majority of the time has taken its toll on the athlete.
"For the world's best players, they have an entourage and plenty of people behind the scenes taking care of every necessity – flights, bookings, travel and massage. For me, I have had to do all of this alone, which is not only time-consuming but also quite stressful at times, especially when looking for last-minute flights and hotels."
"Federer plays in packed stadiums every week. I play in places where sometimes there is only the lines judges and the umpires watching."
Another huge difference between the two is that money is tight.
"I make money through my prize money at challengers and ATP events as well as playing league matches for clubs across Europe."
Just exactly how much he has put his neck on the line for the sport can be seen from his reflection on a tournament in Damascus, Syria, in 2009.
"I had flown in from a Davis Cup tie on a Sunday midnight flight from Cyprus. None of my bags arrived, no tennis rackets, no shoes, nothing. On top of that, I was hobbling around on a sprained ankle which I had sustained in a Davis Cup match two days before.
"After five hours of sleep and some dodgy breakfast I arrived at the courts for my 10am match only to find out I was playing a local Syrian wildcard.
"The crowd was pumped for the match and my opponent was animated. He had probably waited all year for this match. I borrowed some shoes and a racket from another player and ended up winning the match but it wasn't pretty. I had to deal with a hostile crowd, severe heat, a tough opponent and my dodgy ankle. I was asking myself after the first point of the match: "What's this all about? Why on earth am I here?"
Sacrificing friendships, family times and a social life, with an old head on young shoulders, James realises he only has a certain amount of precious time left in his life to give to tennis.
"I learned at a young age that sacrifice is part of success. I want to give it 100pc which sometimes means having less time for all the 'normal' stuff. Loneliness is part of the job, but I have learned to deal with it. At the end of the day, you are only lonely if you are not happy with the person you are and fortunately I am comfortable in my own shoes."
Using defeats to motivate himself to work harder, he says: "You cannot afford to get so wrapped up in a loss and it is so important to learn to bounce back as soon as possible."
His biggest win to date has been beating next big star of American tennis, Ryan Harrison, this year. Harrison's natural athleticism and fiery temper has allowed him to reach number 43 in the world.
"I beat Ryan Harrison in a Challenger tournament in California this year. Harrison has competed against the likes of Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray so he would be considered a very promising player.
"I managed to beat him after being 5-1 down in the third set. It was a nice win but I am certainly aiming at beating much higher ranked players from now on."
Training up to seven hours a day which is mostly made up of drills, stretching and injury-prevention exercises, James's dream is to be the best he can be.
"Top 100 in the world would be nice but I don't want to put that limit on myself. Why not higher? My focus is just on trying to improve every day."
Practising earlier this year with Rafael Nadal, who is the current world No 1 and considered to be one of the greatest players of all time, was "intense", admits James.
"I was impressed with his focus throughout the practice. He had eight people on the court during the practice and I realised there and then how business-like it all was. I admire him for what he's achieved but he really is just a regular, humble guy. I've also practised with Lleyton Hewitt and Marin Cilic who are also extremely successful tennis players."
Winning an ITF Futures title in Gabon, Africa, in August gave him a career high of 226, but unfortunately only a pay cheque of €1,500. "I was relieved to have won and proud of the win but I am aiming on winning much bigger tournaments than this one."
James estimates one could spend €100,000 per year if travelling with a full-time coach, making it a very expensive sport.
"This is a huge amount of money and to earn that amount and more on the tour, you absolutely need to be winning matches at the ATP level."
James made his first appearance in the Wimbledon qualifying event earlier in the summer. Getting into the oldest tennis tournament in the world has always been a dream of his, and hopefully he will come up with the goods for Ireland in 2014.
"It has always meant the world to me. I was happy to make it into qualifying this year but my real goal was to qualify into the main draw and win some matches.
"Unfortunately, I came up short in qualifying and didn't do it – however, it was a great learning experience and I will be more prepared for the task next year."