Tennis: Phillips in top 50 after Barcelona boost

Lisa Phillips with Alex Corretja
Lisa Phillips with Alex Corretja

Lisa Phillips is up to a ranking of 49 in the women’s national tennis rankings after some impressive results during the clay-court season.

Phillips, still just 17, said, “It’s really amazing I’ve broken into the top 50 and I still can’t believe it. I’m still eligible to play in the under-18s for another year but I prefer to challenge myself by playing in the older age group.”

The Felpham starlet benefitted from pre-season clay court training at Barcelona Total Tennis Academy and this has helped her play on clay. She was one of ten girls and 14 boys who were selected for the two-week camp at the High Performance Centre in Valldoreix, just outside Barcelona. The trip, for elite junior tennis players, was funded by the Leonardo Mobility Grant.

The academy boasts 16 traditional Spanish red-clay courts and has an enviable reputation in Spain. BTTA has worked with prestigious top players including Fernando Verdasco, Tommy Robredo, Feliciano Lopez and Albert Costa.

A talented team of coaches including Costa and Francis Roig, who is part of Rafael Nadal’s technical team, helped train the British players. The major focus of the trip was to develop clay court tennis and training included technical, tactical, physical and psychological aspects of the game.

There were interesting talks from Portuguese player Joao Sousa and former Spanish pro Alex Corretja about life of a pro tennis player. Sousa, who trains at BTTA, has a world Ranking of 39 and spoke about his current goals. The Portuguese player is the first and only player from his country to enter the ATP top 50.

Corretja talked about his experiences on tour, his achievement of having a world ranking of two and twice being runner-up at the French Open. Corretja also talked about his experiences as a highly respected coach in Spain and how he coached Andy Murray on clay.

Modern-day tennis requires players to play on all the surfaces used on the ATP and WTA tours. A lack of clay courts in the UK can present problems for British players on the world stage.

Before this trip, Phillips was inexperienced on clay having only played on it three times. She benefitted in Spain by having an individual lesson on how to slide on the surface. With up to seven hours of tennis training a day, including drills and matchplay, Phillips was able to greatly improve her movement on the clay court over the two weeks and improve her game play.

Phillips said: “I’ve learned you have to be more patient when playing on a clay court, because a shot that would probably be a winner on a hard court isn’t always a winner on clay.

“The trip has motivated me even more to become a professional tennis player. I have learned I need to improve my flexibility more and have learned some different ways to improve my agility and sprinting. The main difference between the coaching in Spain and the coaching in this country is the coach/pupil ratio.

“In Spain, one coach would coach just two players where as in this country a squad of up to ten players would be coached by just one coach. This gives the Spanish players a tremendous advantage over the British players.”

Phillips capitalised on her clay court practice at Barcelona on her return to the UK in the first British Tour cla-court event of the season. The national tier-one event at West Hants Club in Bournemouth saw Phillips start well, beating players in straight sets who are ranked 97 and 58 in the women’s national list.

She lost in the last eight to Jasmine Asghar, who has a national ranking of 31.

In another tier-one event at Queenswood in Herts, she beat Somerset’s Kasia Pink but lost in the quarter-finals to 1.1-rated Yasmin Clark despite playing well.