Ace coach adds to Ipswich class
AS regional tennis undergoes a major resurgence, one long-time Ipswich coach is adding to its international growth.
Ipswich hosted successful international feeder tournaments during its Festival of Tennis earlier this year. The major Australian tournaments attracted players like Sally Peers, who has since qualified for the US Open.
Highly-regarded Ipswich professional coach Les Haines has now lured Spanish coach Felipe Cruz to the city as part of his Scorpion International Tennis Academy.
Cruz, who has coached top 10 Spanish players like Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Fernando Vadasco, is in Ipswich helping talented regional players.
At St Mary’s College courts this week, Cruz said his goal was introducing an international program used around the world.
The Ipswich project features Spanish training with Australian-based management.
“We try to put in a system where they attack down the court and improve their power and defence. The kids get more technical,” Cruz said.
“We have academies here, in India, Spain. In 2011, we start in America.”
Despite the hot conditions in Ipswich through the week, Cruz was happy working with kids of all ages at St Mary’s College.
“It’s okay, Spain is similar in terms of the humidity,” he said raising his sweaty arm and smiling.
“I’m enjoying it. I like the people. I like the kids. It’s very good.”
Scorpion International was founded in 2006 in Alicante, Spain.
Ipswich-based Scorpion International CEO Haines contracted Felipe to be the coaching director.
Cruz, 40, trained with Nadal at 17 and was with him in Melbourne in 2004 where he lost to Lleyton Hewitt in four sets.
Haines, a coach for more than 25 years, set up the academy in Ipswich five years ago.
He was thrilled that first client Jared Easton, from the Gold Coast, is in Melbourne qualifying for the Australian Open.
Scorpion International has 180 students in the club, including three full-time students from South America, one from Russia and two from Japan.
Ten Australian students, including Ipswich Grammar student Justin Rowe and Ipswich Girls’ Grammar player Adrienne Rowe, are preparing for a Spanish Tour in June.
Cruz is confident the advanced level training and exposure to tough European tennis will raise Australia’s international profile.
“There is a lot of talent here that is not being challenged but that is about to change,” the Spaniard said.
“The facilities in Brisbane and the Alder centre (Leichhardt) are world class. But winning is about good coaching and bringing players to the level of the international competition.”
Cruz also hopes to bring Scorpion International players to future Ipswich ITF tournaments.
Haines said it had been a life-time goal to create an opportunity for students to live and train in Spain. “This is now evolving,” Haines said.
“Presenting Ipswich City Council with the Alder centre upgrade idea with Jill Franklin in 2000 has resulted in a centre equal to any in the world so now we have everything to compete for.”