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Four-year-old stuns top tennis coach

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Author Topic: Four-year-old stuns top tennis coach  (Read 46 times)
« on: February 02, 2009, 10:43:19 am »

WOW ....

She has excellent forehand rhythm, is working hard on her hip rotation and has the best footwork her famed American coach has seen in 25 years. But patience, please: Australia's newest tennis prospect is a four-year-old girl.

Mia Lines is still two years from starting school but her tennis education is well under way. The little girl from the Melbourne suburb of Wantirna South is in the middle of a month-long stay at Rick Macci's Tennis Academy near Miami, Florida, training three times a day with the man who coached grand slam champions Andy Roddick, Jennifer Capriati and the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, as 10-year-old children.

Macci was stunned by Mia's attention span and movement on the court when she first flew to the US last July. He described her as a special little athlete and a potential world-class player. He has noticed even more improvement since her father, Glenn, took her back there two weeks ago.

"She has amazing adjustment steps, the best I've seen in 25 years. She's part kangaroo," said Macci, who trains thousands of children aged three and up each year. Macci likes to build players and believes the potential of young girls is easier to predict than that of boys, whose growth becomes a bigger factor in whether they improve.

He has won a national US coaching award seven times, is renowned for his work with youth and believes that, so long as the kids are having fun, getting started so young is not dangerous at all. Good habits, he said, were best ingrained at a young age. Tennis is a sport filled with young champions, with Monica Seles, Martina Hingis, Capriati and the Williams girls among those to win major titles as teenagers.

"Kids love challenges. Four is not too young if you have a gift, and Mia does," Macci said. "She has a really good feel for the game and she listens: everything you say to her she takes in and understands. She needs a little more poise on her forehand but we're working hard on that. Give her a bit more time and technique and she could be anything. She's a real little pro. I see, feel, smell greatness from this kid."

Mia could control a racquet when she was one, takes coaching lessons near home, practises for up to three hours a day and can already hit on a full-sized court. Matches, though, can wait a while: her work with Macci basically involves him lobbing balls to her, so she can simply work on her racquet swing and moving her feet.

Mr Lines came across Macci's website while researching the world's best junior coaches. He called him, got some good advice on how much tennis Mia should be playing and then decided to visit, to find out how she was progressing. Akeen local player and a huge tennis fan, Mr Lines used to tell friends even before his daughter was born that she would be a star. "I even took a tennis ball into the hospital when she was born."

Soon, he found out she had a knack for the sport. Mia could control a racquet when she was one and was only 3 when she first flew to the US last year. It raises an obvious question, though: how much is too much, at an age when most kids spend their spare time finger painting, not sweating it out on the tennis court?

While it was his decision to get Mia started, Mr Lines said she decided whether or not she wanted to play each day and could quit any time she wanted. "A lot of people have asked me that. They say: 'Isn't it a bit much? Aren't you overdoing it?' But as far as I'm concerned it's all up to Mia.

"If she ever says she doesn't want to play, then she doesn't play. She drives it. All this does is teaches her some basics, teaches her some good habits and gets her thinking like a professional.

"She's a happy-go-lucky little girl who loves singing and dancing and Spider-Man and Scooby-Doo. But she's getting better at tennis and it's what she loves most to do."

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