Tennis ace Stephens heads for Canadian academy
Michaela Stephens in action during one of her many matches last year.<strong></strong>

JAMAICA'S number one female player Michaela Stephens will be attending renowned Ace Tennis Academy in Canada on a three-month scholarship as part of her development.

She is expected to leave the island on Monday, January 23, to begin her stint.

The scholarship was made possible by her former national coach Douglas Burke, who is currently the president and tennis director of Ace Tennis Academy in Burlington, Canada. He was Jamaica's national coach for over ten years

Stephens said she hopes to make the best of the opportunity.

“I will be making the best of this opportunity given to me by Douglas Burke, who also coached me.

“I am very grateful and hope to do my best and to improve my playing capability,” Stephens said.

The 14-year-old Stephens, who presently attends Liberty Academy (formerly Priory High School), has been Jamaica's top female singles champion in many competitions. Last year she captured singles titles in the All-Jamaica Open, Hi-Pro Open, and Jamaica National Open. She has also won titles in the ITF COTECC Juniors 14 and under, All-Jamaica Under-16 and 18-titles.

Stephens, who is now close to her 15th birthday, will no longer be eligible to play in the Juniors 14 and under girls competitions as she has passed the age limit. She now has to focus playing in the 16 and 18 and under tournaments.

With regards to her school while away in Canada, Stephens said: “I will be doing my school lessons via Internet while attending the Ace Tennis Academy, so I will not miss out on my education during my stay.”

Meanwhile, Burke said over 500 participants from ages five to 18-years-old are in the Ace Tennis Academy.

“We tried to get the youngsters involved in tennis at a very early age — around five or six-years-old.

The more serious players are placed in the high-performance group, while others are placed in different groups, depending on their progress,” Burke said.

The Jamaican tennis coach played professional tennis between 1980 and 1992 while residing in Canada before returning to Jamaica to become Tennis Jamaica's (TJ) technical director.

Burke then became Jamaica's head coach for over 10 years where he was also Jamaica's Davis Cup captain as a player, then non-playing captain.

One of Burke's famous matches on the professional circuit was against the great Pete Sampras of the USA in 1992, a match he lost.

— Gerald Reid

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