SPRING 2019 newsletter
It’s been a very busy start to spring for Gigi. Her winter woes with her broken wrist in January have long since been forgotten and her training and physical training continues to be of the highest level possible.
During April Gigi played several important tournaments and won two rounds of the adult Championship of France against older and higher-ranked players. She then went to Brittany where she played in a 17/18 year old national tournament, winning three matches and only losing her final match against again a higher-ranked and very much more experienced 15 year-old girl. In both tournaments her play and deportment caught the attention of many people.
During the early part of May we went to Paris where Gigi again played in a 17/18 year-old national tournament. There she won two matches and lost her third match against an 18 year-old from Paris. She was the youngest player there and it seemed the whole clubhouse had nothing better to do than talk about her!
Since then she has played locally in the Department Championship for 13/14 year olds where she won both the semi-final and the final to become the 2019 champion. Hurrah!
To round off a great eight weeks of tennis Gigi also went up a level in her French ranking and is now officially in the top twenty 2006 players in France. Theoretically there are only five girls ranked higher than her.
Frankly, we think this is quite a feat (perhaps even astounding) considering that Gigi only started playing tennis just three years ago at the age of 9. To see her progress since that weekly class, through the past two years when she has started to play with hard balls and an adult racket, to where she is today, is amazing (and also proof that hard work really does pay off!).
One of the reasons that Gigi attracts so much attention, of course, is that in comparison to her contemporaries she has not been playing for very long at all. The current French top 12 year-old started training for three hours a day, six days a week, when she was six! And all of Gigi’s other contemporaries have been playing since they were 3 or 4. As a result, when Gigi was still lobbing soft balls across the net three years ago, all of the players she is meeting now were already playing National tournaments with hard balls and adult rackets! Our collective aim is for Gigi to become a 3/6 before her 13th birthday in August, and if successful she will be one of a very select band of girls who have achieved this ranking at that age.
Since the end of March Gigi has also continued to play for her club - Tennis Club SAUJON - in the adult Division 1 team. In the club's pool there were six clubs from throughout the Nouvelle Aquitaine and Gigi played was their no.1 string; during the campaign she not only won every one of her singles matches, but she did so without losing a set - the only player in the league to do so. She also played every time in the team doubles every match, and with her partner won every one of those as well. Helped by Gigi’s contribution the club finished top of their divisional pool and for the first time ever now go onto the National finals at the end of June in Biarritz!
The rest of May has seen more of an emphasis on physical training rather than tournaments. With so many matches during April it was hard to concentrate on both fitness and tennis, so with fewer tournaments planned this month improvements in fitness have been a core objective, even if Gigi is already among the fittest on the circuit.
On the schooling front, Gigi also began home-schooling last winter, following the French schools’ curriculum with CNED, something most of her contemporaries do. At the same time, she is thoroughly committed to her tennis with five hours a day of training (3 hours tennis, 2 hours fitness), five days a week with additional training at weekends when needed.
As you are all aware, tennis is very expensive, and we would have never got anywhere near where we are today without help. In that respect we cannot but thank all of you who have helped Gigi along in her burgeoning career so far. You helped us through 2018 and this far in 2019, and we are truly grateful.
Unfortunately we will still be replying on people’s help until our application for French citizenship is approved, a process that may still take another year or two. Until then, we will still be paying for all of Gigi’s tennis which leaves us at a disadvantage compared to Gigi’s contemporaries, all of whom are sponsored by the Federation, and some of them to the tune of 40,000 euros a year, with their training and travel around the European circuit all paid for. It may look like an impossible task, but we have managed so far and hope we can continue to get by till then. As a result, we are sorry to say we still need your support and hope you will stick with us for the duration.
Due to these financial restrictions, Gigi has not been able to play in Europe this spring and we have been forced to find mostly adult tournaments in France so she can meet players of her own calibre. However, she really should be playing 13/14 year old tournaments in Europe on a regular, monthly, basis in order to improve on last year's European ranking. It is also vital for her to play girls of her own age in order to progress.
So, if you think you can help us still, and would like to continue to help Gigi get to her goal of being the World Number 1, we really would very much welcome your input. Note, we don’t say get to the highest level possible, because this is not Gigi's goal. If you ask her, she wants to be NUMBER ONE in the world, nothing less. And we don’t doubt her in any way, and neither does her coach.
Again, thank you so much for what you have done so far for her, and we hope very much that you can continue to help us in the next year and a half. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Best wishes, Gigi, Susan and Aurelien
PS: Gigi received an invitation yesterday to the main draw (no qualifying needed!) of the European tournament in Finland in June - if any of you have perhaps been thinking of helping us again this year, now would be a really good time to do so!! It’s going to be a little too far to drive in the little Ford….
2018 SUMMER ROUND-UP
This year Gigi has progressed at an enormous rate from where she was 12 months ago. At the end of last summer, she was still playing with green-spot balls, and an adult racket and hard balls were a new experience for her. Since then she has advanced from being part of a local class of green-spot players to her current national French ‘classement’ of 5/6, and as of today, she is now one of the top fourteen players in France (there are 3683 registered twelve year olds in France who play tournament tennis). Her ranking is all the more impressive when one realises that her peers in that top group have been playing tennis for many years, and some of them have competed on the European circuit for several seasons.
This season Gigi started competing on the Junior Europe Tennis circuit herself, a circuit where many future stars have been launched. At the San Marino tournament on the Adriatic coast she very convincingly knocked out the local top seed in the first round in two straight sets. This was an opponent who had won a great many titles and the result caused a mild uproar in the clubhouse. Sadly, Gigi next met the tournament no.1 seed (and the eventual tournament winner) from Macedonia in the second round; this was a girl who has trained at the Barcelona Tennis Academy with hard balls since she was 8 years old, and even though Gigi put up a great fight over the course of two hours (many games went to deuce) she was eventually beaten in two sets. In the next tournament in Braga, Portugal, Gigi reached the quarter-finals by beating Spanish and Portuguese opponents before she lost to the vastly more experienced Spanish national no.2 ranked player. In so doing, she did better than any of the French squad of five girls, who were all knocked out by the second round (Gigi plays under the British flag for Great Britain at Tennis Europe events). All of this was in the spring, before the summer season began in France.
For the summer, after much discussion with her coach, we decided to stay close at home rather than playing in more foreign countries. The reason for this is that the Charente Maritime is well known for the many tennis tournaments that occur all summer long, a frenzy of tennis to which teams and clubs from all over France seasonally travel with their coaches to take part. It is one of the 'summer things’ the Charente Maritime is well known for and as a result there is a great mix of players from Paris and everywhere else in France. We knew this would mean Gigi would play vastly more experienced opponents, play many more matches, and learn far more. It also meant in order to play at her ranking level she played in many 17/18 year old tournaments and three adult tournaments - France does not set up its amateur tournaments by age, but by ‘classement’.
She was still a 15/1 when we started, an achievement in itself, (the ranking changes at the beginning of each month), but after two months of squaring up to opponents twice her size, she had won so many matches that her ranking flew up to a remarkable 5/6 by season’s end. Along the way Gigi played 32 matches and won 26 of them; her six losses all came against higher ranked opponents - often much older than her. But the story doesn’t end there as she also beat many other older and higher ranked players, including a 4/6 aged 16, six players ranked at 5/6 and six players ranked at 15 - all this while Gigi was still 11 years old and ranked 15/1. Highlights of the summer included a win against the holder of the Women's French 65+ title (a lady who had only won her crown at Roland Garros this year, and has also won World Championships in San Diego, Miami and New Zealand). This opponent had 50 years of tournament experience to Gigi’s one and it was a difficult match for Gigi as she was not used to the style of play the older lady initiated, and although she may not have run like a teenager. she also made no errors. It was up to Gigi to attack and find a way to win the points. Gigi lost the first set 4/6 before working out what she had to do and she won the next two sets quite convincingly, 6/1 6/4. Amongst other wins, Gigi also won her first adult tournament (while still an 11 year-old!) at the prestigious Saujon club, where she overcame a very strong 22 year-old 5/6 opponent from Bordeaux in the final, beating her opponent in two sets, 7/5 7/5.
In total this summer Gigi played in 10 tournaments. She won five of them, was runner up in a sixth and lost in the semi-finals of one adult and one 17/18 year old tournament, and the quarter-finals of one adult and one 17/18 year old tournament.
During this time we also heard a great deal of commentary on Gigi from many other people in the sport, and it would appear that we have a great deal to look forward too. Opponents, coaches, other players’ parents and many experienced spectators have all mentioned seeing the same traits in Gigi - not just her athleticism, fitness levels and technique, but also her maturity and exceptional game-sense. They’ also all remarked on her exceptional sportsmanship and an uncanny ability to work out what is needed as matches progress before implementing her ideas to overcome opponents. She is the girl who never loses her cool; she has listened to teenagers scream and swear and throw rackets across the court and she always remains utterly calm and unfazed - in the words of one very well-known coach, “Her mental attitude is very, very rare in a child; I have never seen anything like it in my life before” - and we all know that tennis is 50% a mental game.
The tournament season came to a head in Gigi's very last match against an immensely powerful 17 year-old who was ranked 3/6, and a first set which Gigi only eventually lost 4/6 - a turn of events that elicited a great deal of conversation afterwards in the clubhouse and a personal invitation from the president of the popular Garden Tennis Royan club for Gigi to join their ranks for the forthcoming season. Gigi’s attitude was succinctly summed up by one person who said, “She’s made of twisted steel, that one”. We have also lost count a long time ago of the number of people who have said they look forward to seeing her at Roland Garros!
Her successes so far have earned her a BABOLAT racket sponsorship; the company only gives out a very limited number each year to juniors under the age of 18 and the 2017/2018 season was our first year with this sponsorship. Initially it was only for one year, but we have just received a new contract from BABOLAT where they are "exceedingly happy" to continue their sponsorship for another two years. This means Gigi's rackets and strings are all paid for, which is wonderful news. It is a very prestigious sponsorship and speaks volumes in itself.
Gigi is also is an ambassador for Zoe Alexander UK who make bespoke tennis clothing. They contacted her earlier this year and sent her a dozen tennis outfits for the summer as they love her “dedication, determination and wonderful attitude”. They have also since named one of their tennis outfits after her - it is for sale on their website as “The Gigina Dress” (this is taken from Gigi's Instagram account, @gigina_tennis - and we should add that she now has nearly 10,000 followers on her Instagram account, a number that exceeds many professional players!). Above all though, we’re also happy to say that we think Gigi has managed to stay very humble despite all of her successes. She really is still a little girl who just loves her tennis and wants to go all the way to the top.
This GOFUNDME page is still very pertinent, as we still cannot receive any financial help from the French Tennis Federation, and that situation will not change until September next year (2019) when we can apply for French citizenship. Until then we are completely dependent on funding this season's tennis ourselves, and with the help of friends and other interested parties. If you can help, we would love to hear from you directly, or via a donation to this page. Any amount would be very gratefully received as we are currently paying €500 a week for coaching, and then in addition we have all her travel and accommodation expenses as well for her European tournaments this winter. We look forward to hearing from you, and thank you for reading this far!
[this winter Gigi will be playing her tennis at the prestigious SAUJON club, which invited her to be a member after her tremendous summer. She will be part of the three-person Women's Adult team for this season, and is also playing in the Adult Mixed Doubles with her coach - this is something we look forward to watching!]
- Lee Carlson
- Paul&Louise Clark
- Philippe Fraile
- theduc ibra
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