Story & photos Eve Jeffery
At just 14 years of age, Louis Clark has already been playing tennis for eight years and competing for more than a third of his life.
A bit of a lone ranger, Louis spends his time at several clubs and benefits from the experience of more than one coach and a few training buddies.
Louis recently won the Northern NSW Junior 14s Champion of Champions Tennis Tournament held in Inverell. This event includes children from the Queensland border, down to Port Macquarie and west to Gunnedah. This has led to his selection for the NSW State Titles in Sydney.
Because of his win, Louis has also been invited to attend the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in America for a six-week scholarship. Louis will travel to the US early next year – this is a wonderful opportunity as these offers are usually more readily available to metropolitan children.
Trained by coaches Ryan Kebblewhite of Pottsville and Mullumbimby-based tour player Stephen Gort, Louis spends about four hours a week training. He also plays cricket, soccer and golf but tennis is his first love.
Louis also has clear ideas about his future. ‘I hope to go to college in America,’ he says. ‘I’d like to try to get into the pro circuit.’
In the long term Louis wants to get Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) points for a world ranking and then he would like to climb that ladder all the way to the top. ‘I’d like to make it to the top 100 in the world,’ he says. ‘World number one would be good.’
Louis plays on the Junior Tour which is ranked; he currently sits at 14th in NSW in his age group and in the top 60 in Australia.
It’s a challenge for a Suffolk Park lad to get among the big guns when much of the action happens in the city – Louis’s mum Lisa gets to rack up a lot of miles, but coach Steven Gort thinks it could be worth it.
Gort coaches that lad at the Riverside courts in Mullumbimby and sees a lot of potential in Louis.
‘His form is pretty good,’ says Stephen, himself a ranked player. ‘He has shown big improvements, especially in the last few weeks. I’ve been working him pretty hard and it’s starting to pay off.’
Gort says that college tennis is a definite possibility for Louis, whom he says shows great technique. ‘Plenty of Australian players are doing it because you get a degree, you get good tennis and there is a lot of opportunity over there. He’s got four years to get to that stage; he has plenty of time.’
Stephen can see that Louis has the potential to go all the way. He says that he doesn’t see many 14-year-olds with Louis’s ability. ‘He’s got plenty of talent, so it’s just a matter of putting in the hard work. He makes it look easy. There are plenty of players out there that might work hard and are determined but if they don’t have the talent… He’s got a lot of potential.
‘He’s got all the shots. Lots of shots I wish I had at his age. He has good technique that doesn’t break under pressure.’