What do former World no 1 Marat Safin, seasoned pros such as Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer, Nicolás Almagro, Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina, Mariusz Fyrstenberg, María José Martínez Sánchez, and Guillermo García-López, and up-and-coming players María Teresa “Tita” Torró, Mohamed Safwat, Aleksandra Zenovka, Mayar Sherif, and Mario Vileja (to name only a few) have in common?
They all either come from, train or have trained at the same Spanish tennis academy, now known as JC Ferrero – Equelite Sport Academy.
Building on tradition
Founded in 1995 by Antonio Martínez Cascales (coach of Juan Carlos Ferrero) in the wake of the work he started across the country in the 1980s with his collaborators, the Academy is now one of the best-renowned tennis schools in Spain.
Located in the Spanish town of Villena, Equelite which, at first, started with only a few tennis courts, is now comprised of 20 courts of all three surfaces, a gym, accommodation, and more, all in a 120,000 sq. m. complex that includes everything to maximise the training and well-being of its players.
As well, to further its tradition of hard work, humility, and fraternity, the Academy employs coaches and trainers from all over the world, in order to give the best possible training to all its members.
One of those coaches is former Mexican pro Javier Torres-Prado, who got acquainted with Equelite back in 2003, when he came to train there, an experience he liked “because the level of competitiveness is very high, as is the exigency of the training.”
Training the elite
It’s no wonder, then, to see such names as David Ferrer among those who passed by Equelite in their younger years.
Ferrer is without a doubt one of the players that symbolises best how someone can make the best of his/her talent with constant, hard work. He is not the most talented player on Tour, but he trained to maximise his strengths and this made him the great player he is now. Assuredly a model for the young players, as well as for anyone who likes to pick up a racquet in their free time.
Some have used the facilities at Equelite to train and improve their tennis, and continue using them when they are in Europe. It is the case of former number ones Marat Safin and his sister Dinara Safina, but also of Maria Sharapova, who comes train in the Villean academy nearly every year since around 2003, as a warmup for the French Open.
Of course, Sharapova, a product of the Nick Bollettieri Academy, also comes to Equelite because she is friends with Juan Carlos Ferrero, but as she said several years ago, she also likes the “home away from home” feeling that the Academy gives her. Furthermore, she thought that, with Ferrero being the best clay court player when she first came, it could only help her improve her game on this surface.
When she passed by Equelite after completing her Career Grand Slam in Paris, Sharapova acknowledged those who believed in her and helped her for so long:
“I remember that two years ago, Juan Carlos told me that he thought that with a few little adjustments in my game, I could win Roland Garros. I don’t think many more people thought that. […] I wanted to come to the Juan Carlos Ferrero – Equelite Academy to rest and share this triumph with them, as they have always treated me fantastically and believed in me, as well as because of my friendship with Juan Carlos. On top of my family and my coach [Thomas Hogstedt], I would also like to thank my physio, Juan Reque, and the doctor Nacho Muñoz for the last few years, in which they have helped me overcome physical issues that threatened my tennis career.”
I think we can say those “little adjustments” really made her improve from the “cow on ice” she was calling herself several years ago and the French Open champion she now is.
Nicolás Almagro has been a friend of Juan Carlos Ferrero for many years. Since last December, he has also started to train at the Academy, where he goes to fine tune aspects of his game.
Staying there with his coach, Samuel López, who is also JCF-Equelite Sport Manager, the Murcian lives on the grounds and every time he comes, takes time to house one of the brightest prospects of the Academy, with whom he trains and whom he also mentors and advises, just like he did with Milos Raonic when he started.
Furthermore, Almagro takes time to hit with many of the young players, being a great role model to them with his down-on-earth personality, his great generosity of time and presence, and, of course, his great talent.
A couple of months ago, in his home town of Murcia, Nico Almagro organised and gave, with the help of JCF-Equelite, this conference about the education of the teenagers through sport, showing once again how much of an inspiration he is to the younger generation in his country.
Forming the future generation
JCF-Equelite has and has had many elite players coming to train at their facilities or perfect their talent on their grounds, and the tradition continues with many young players.
Over the next few days, you will get to discover some of their best prospects, young players to watch and whose development and future will be worth following over the next few years. Some are already known to those who follow the ITF Junior Circuit or the ITF Pro Circuit, others are really there for the discovery.
To know more
All photos in this post are a courtesy of JCF – Equelite and may only be used with their authorization.