THE end of Wimbledon may put tennis on the backburner for some, but certainly not for those in the Billericay based Ellesse Academy.

Seven months on from switching to their current Blunts Wall Road base, the growing group of young players are shining brighter than ever before.

And coach Kirk Butler remains delighted by their progress.

“We have about 45 kids in the academy now so it’s getting busy and it’s really taken off,” said Butler.

“A lot of them are winning grade three events and some are winning grade two tournaments too, which is fantastic to see.


Working hard - Josh Ratnage hits a forehand in training

“We also have players here in the top five in the country and in the younger groups we have the top four players in Essex so we have a good group of kids who have enjoyed success.

“But they all have to keep on working hard to stay in the academy and they know that.

“We will keep pushing them because their places aren’t guaranteed and they certainly can’t afford to get complacent, which is the best way to make sure you keep getting the best out of them.”

The youngsters all train at least three times a week at Billericay Lawn Tennis Club, spending a total of around eight hours on court.

And Butler also believes the spirit of the group has helped them to shine in recent tournaments.


In training - Naya Kauders works on her forehand

“They all work together so when they go to tournaments they’re in a team and they’re all supporting each other which is nice,” said Butler.

“They feed off each other and bring the best out of each other too, especially in training which is always competitive for them.

“But what we’re doing gives them a base and the facilities we have here are fantastic.

“We’ve been really pleased with how it’s all gone but we won’t be standing still.

“We overlap some of the squads now, which works well because it makes the younger players want to be able to progress and play in the same way the older ones do.


Star performer - Matt Doe has impressed again this season

“We also get the parents involved so everyone feels as though they are playing a part and I think that’s important.

“They help out, which we really appreciate and the potential these players have is very exciting.

“We have a big tournament here next week and I’m sure many of them will do well in the different age-groups.

“That will definitely be the aim.”

In order to get the best out of his young players, Butler and his team of coaches regularly work on the fitness of the group before putting them through their paces on court while also improving their technique.

The results are now speaking for themselves but Butler is keen for the academy to keep on improving.

And he dreams of being able to provide even more for the players.

“The dream is to get a full-time school where we can do everything under one roof,” said Butler.

“That will be hard to set up and we will have to go down a lot of avenues.

“It will take a few years but it’s good to have targets and aspirations and that’s definitely the main long-term one we have for the academy.

“I think it would be amazing.”