Westwood academy will provide platform for young aces

Lindie Naughton

Talented young tennis players in south Dublin are to have their own tennis academy located at Westwood Leopardstown.

The new academy follows the success of a similar academy at Westwood Clontarf where juniors have fed directly in to a university programme or opted for the full-time professional route.

"The idea is to offer a seamless progression for talented players from ages four and five to the senior game," says Jamie Pilkington, recently appointed tennis director at Westwood Leopardstown.

"It will be similar to LTA academies in the UK, where high performance centres are linked to universities.

"It means that when players get to 17 or 18, they can go the professional route or opt for university tennis. They are not just abandoned, which is a huge problem with young tennis players."

Pilkington, who spent four years on tennis scholarship in the USA, knows what he is talking about. For the past six years, he has coached and managed the DCU squad, which has come to dominate colleges tennis here. Recently DCU won a fifth men's and a third women's university title.

"It means that tennis players, such as Niamh Coveney, don't have to go to the USA to play colleges tennis," says Pilkington. "Through DCU, Niamh played in the World University Games, the BNP Paris Masters (U) and European League. This year, she was selected for the Irish Fed Cup team for the first time."

His aim with the new academy is to start from the bottom and ensure that players aspiring to a professional career get a good grounding from the beginning.

"We will have summer camps at Westwood Leopardstown starting in the first week of June for children aged from four to 17, which we will use for talent spotting," he says.

"All players will be invited to join the academy but their offering will be dependent on their potential and current level but everyone will have a fair chance."

p Full details of the five-day camps, which run from Monday to Friday, starting at 10am and continuing until 4pm at www.westwood.ie/