Jake Hersey is a youth tennis player with multiple appearances at major European tournaments, including Wimbledon. We sat down to talk to Jake about his future, how much time he spends playing tennis and life on the road as a youth tennis player. Jake is a member of the PEUGEOT Rising Stars programme, helping young up-and-coming athletes.
How did you first get into playing tennis?
My brother was good enough to play at club level, and played with him in the garden at home. Then I started attending club with him, playing soft ball tennis. From there I moved up as I got older, working with different coaches and improving along the way.
Was the initial plan just to beat your brother?
At first it was just good fun. Quite quickly my return shots improved, I realised I might be able to beat him! He plays football now rather than tennis, so I don’t really get the chance any more!
What influence have your parents had on your career?
They’ve been a big influence. Without my mum I wouldn’t be able to go to tournaments or training, and my parents paid for everything before I started receiving sponsorship. It was quite a lot of money, so I really appreciate it. I’ve grown quite a lot over the last few years so the kit, especially the trainers, were really expensive at the start! They also cheer me on at every competition and are there for support if things aren’t going well.
What do you enjoy most about playing tennis?
I get to meet new people, visit different countries and play someone different almost every match. I’ve played a few good mates of mine, which can be difficult once you’re on court. Before the match you need to prepare and focus, but once it’s finished you can chat and chill out. When I get older that will probably change, though!
What surface do you think you’re best suited to?
I prefer the indoor hard court at the moment. The weather doesn’t affect things and because the hard court is quick, and I’m a big guy, I generate a lot of power so my ground strokes are far more effective. I like clay, but it doesn’t necessarily suit the way I play, as it’s very slow, so at the moment I’m practising to get used to it. I haven’t really had the chance to try grass as much, but it’s got a lower bounce and is a slower surface, which is why you see more slice shots. When you’re a junior, you have to try to play on all the different kinds of surfaces while you’ve got the chance, so when you get to the big tournaments you don’t have a weakness.
Which other sports person would you most like to emulate in your career?
I’ve played tennis all my life, so I really admire the current top four men’s players; I like Andy Murray because he’s so quick moving around the court, Federer because he’s got a fantastic range of shots, and Nadal has shown incredible fight to come back from injury. I think Novak Djokovic has got such an incredible range of abilities, he’d be closer to my style and someone I’d really like to emulate. He likes to move up the court and be aggressive, but changes to a defensive style when needed. I like hitting big shots and being aggressive, and that’s the style I prefer, whereas when I was younger I was still working out what my strengths were. I’m playing people who are 17 years old at the moment, and close to playing on the adult circuit, so I need to be sure of my game plan and playing style when I step onto the court.
How do you deal with the pressure of competing in tennis tournaments and doing normal teenage things, such as school/college and socialising?
I don’t really get much time outside of training to socialise. I’m often too tired to do anything other than relax and recover for the next training day, and I’ve always got school work to do as well. At the weekends, I can go out with my family and do something different to unwind. You get far more time when you’re at a tournament, as you might be on court at 9:30am and have the remainder of the day to yourself, to rest and socialise or do some school work. You’re never really rushing when you’re at a tournament. I’m almost at a stage when I can travel to a tournament on my own, but I’m not sure I would, as having a coach there helps you to know when to stretch out and recover to avoid injury. I love it all though, and I wouldn’t change it even if it is hard work!
Do you enjoy the travelling?
Very much. Some of the players in my age group are travelling as far as Asia at the moment to get their ranking up. I’ve been to North Africa, but mostly stayed around Europe. I’d like to play in America, Australia and Japan, and when I turn pro I’d like to go to as many tournaments as I can. I’d like to go to Canada as well, which has a small tournament, and experience the cultures in other continents.
Do your non-tennis playing friends envy you playing at international tournaments etc?
It can be difficult explaining to them that I’m not just going on holiday when I go abroad, especially when I come back with a tanned face and arms. I go to a private school that caters for my training alongside my lessons, so most of my friends are in a similar position to me. I enjoy exploring the countries I visit, but often the courts aren’t anywhere near a city. Frequently I just see the airport, a tennis court, then the airport again!
If you could face off against any tennis pro, currently playing or retired, who would it be and why?
Currently playing it would be Novak Djokovic. He’s been so consistent, and won so many tournaments, and I’d love to play him on the hard court. I’d really enjoy playing John McEnroe, as he was really entertaining to watch but played superb tennis as well, playing in a similar way to Gaël Monfils now.
What are your goals for the remainder of 2016?
I’m currently ranked 230 in the world for under-18’s. I want to get to the top 100 by the end of the year, and get into the Australian Open and some of the other big Junior tournaments in 2017. You get to play at the same time as the professionals, so I’d like to spend some time relaxing with the likes of Novak, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal and maybe get a photo with them. Just watching them play and train would be brilliant!
Football or Rugby?
Burger or Hotdog?
City or Country?
Chinese or Indian?
On the track or off-road?
On the track
Big night out or quiet night in?
Big night out