FC**Tennis player focus: Alessandra Ruggieri

Alessandra Ruggieri joined Dukes Meadows in the summer of 2014 after hearing about our tennis centre of excellence through long term friend and fellow academy player Benjamin Heynold.

It’s been a positive experience for both Alessandra and Dukes Meadows. Her tennis has undoubtedly progressed since her first trial with previous coach Marten Renstrom.  She has gone on to win numerous tournaments and has seen her county ranking reach a peak number 3. Alessandra is now a regular around the centre and extremely popular amongst staff and players.

One of her most recent achievements in the last month was qualifying for the prestigious Road to Wimbledon Championships meaning next month she will compete on the hallowed Wimbledon turf.

It’s been a short journey to the top for Alessandra (known by everyone as Alex). She’s now 14 years old but only started playing tennis at the age of 8. Her route into the game came through the inspiration of her brother. She said:

“I decided to go to a tennis school camp for a week because I remember my brother used to play tennis and loved it so I thought I’d give it a go. I then realised I was quite good which was a bonus because I really enjoyed it too.”

After playing club level tennis for a few years, Alessandra decided she wanted to take her tennis more seriously and join a High Performance Academy. When the opportunity to join Dukes Meadows came she grabbed it with both hands.

“I had a trial with previous academy coach Marten and was then invited to come and play in the squads and then for the academy.  I felt I fitted in straight away – it became a bit like a home for me. I like the people and coaches. Training on clay regularly is also not something players in England get to experience much of plus the food in the cafe is great!”

One of her coaches Anna Britton says Alex is an extremely talented player with a unique style of play:

“Alex has a great feel for the ball. A big strength is her ability at the net, she feels very comfortable there which can be quite unusual for a girl as they general prefer to hit pace from the back of the court. It’s great to see the way she serves and volleys and this is where she wins a lot of points.

The drop shot is another speciality of hers! One of her role models is Martina Navratilova and I can see this influence in her game style. Her focus still needs to be on speed and working her legs so she can get a great ready position to work off.”

Alex is now at a crucial stage of her tennis development. The next 12 -18 months will be about playing national tournaments and eventually ITF events. However her short term plans are straightforward:

‘I want to try and win the Road to Wimbledon tournament in August. As a kid you always dream to play at Wimbledon and now it’s going to happen but obviously I hope this is the first of many opportunities to play there.’

Alex recognises that to improve her game she needs be mentally stronger and confesses she currently prefers to play opponents older then her as there’s less pressure.

This is also something Anna believes can occasionally affect her game but she will to learn to embrace these situations and make it beneficial to her:

“She gets annoyed with herself when something is not going right so we are working on getting that under control and channelling that in the right way to improve rather than hinder her play.”

Away from the court Alex likes watching movies and going to the park. Whilst she was born and raised in the UK, she has an Italian Father and Romanian Mother, one of her role models is Romanian player Simona Halep. Her tennis hero is Novak Djokovic and says she was ‘very happy’ to see him lift the Wimbledon trophy earlier this month.