SAM Bayda has swapped south-east Essex for Spain to enhance his blossoming tennis career.
The 16-year-old former Deanes School pupil has began a two-year, full-time training programme at the Soto Tennis Academy in southern Spain.
And he has already adjusted well to his new surroundings.
“It wasn’t very hard settling in because I have been out here a couple of times before so I knew the coaches style of teaching and most of the locals too,” said Bayda.
“The only real change is that I am living in the players’ house with seven others, but we are all very close as we are in the same boat.
“I’m really enjoying it and playing at the academy definitely helps my game because you are treated as an individual and whatever aspects of your game needs improving they work on it for a week or so.
“Things are going well and I’m definitely improving.” Bayda, who began playing tennis at Westcliff Hard, is currently Essex’s number one player and won the Most Outstanding County Tennis Player award this year.
His skills will therefore be suited to the Academy, which has had enormous success despite its relatively short existence.
Freddie Nelson and Jonny Marray, who won the men’s doubles at Wimbledon in July, use Soto as their training base, along with Liam Broady and Josh Ward Hibbert who won the boys’ doubles at the Australian Open.
They, like Bayda, are under the watchful eye of head coach Dan Kiernan, himself a former British number one doubles player.
And Bayda will be putting in to action what he has learnt when he takes part in an International Tennis Federation event in Morroco on Monday as he strives to work his way up the rankings.
“I sat down with my coach Dan this week and he said he wants me to be top 1,000 ITF in the world by Easter which will be hard but manageable,” said Bayda.
“I hope to take being a player as far as I can and maybe get a couple of ATP points, if not more.”
Training in Spain will undoutably improve the chances of that happening. But Bayda is already missing his family and friends.
“It feels weird not being able to text a friend to come over and I miss my family too because I am quite close to them,” he said.
“It’s weird not sitting down in the evenings and I especially miss my dad, who is basically my coach.
“Whenever I come off court from training or a match he always gives me tips and what I could improve so it feels weird not having him here.
“However I do realise this is what’s best for me.”