Tennis - The seven players who were part of the Grand Slam Development Fund’s team that spent three weeks in Australia recalled their experiences in an interview to the ITF website and all the players spoke fondly about the experience, saying it not only helped their tennis but also helped them develop close friendships with one another.
The seven players were Hungary's Peter Makk, Korea’s Seon Yong Han, Turkey’s Bora Sengul, Romania’s Cezar Cretu, Latvia's Kamilla Bartone, Burundi's Sada Nahimana and Belarus' Viktoryia Kanapatskaya.
17-year-old Makk commented, “I had the best experience in my life. The guys that I’ve met here [are] the coolest people and I enjoyed every single minute of being here with the Grand Slam Development team… I think it’s (Australia) the nicest country ever”.
Turkish player Sengul commented, "It was my first Grand Slam experience and it was incredible. Being part of a team is different. You always feel like someone has your back, he’s always working for your back.. I was swimming when I was four.
Then I stopped for some reason. They (my parents) wanted me to play basketball but I saw some guys playing tennis and I decided to play tennis. On that day, I started to play. My dad was actually like ‘Ooh, I played that before, he won’t like it, no worries!
He’s going to play basketball.’ I didn’t stop playing and I’m here now. I wanna play all the Grand Slams. It was my first one and it’s incredible! Maybe it’s because of Australia Czech Cezar Cretu, who moved to Bucharest to further his tennis career, commented, "It’s hard for [my parents].
I have two homes. They have to spend a lot of money on me -- I don’t have any sponsors so they pay for everything. It was a great opportunity because a club from Bucharest offered me a scholarship. I’m training in a nice club, with nice coaches and it’s a nice group of people.
But Bucharest has limited resources. I feel like there’s always a place for having better. You get to play these tournaments that are not so easy to come to. With the coaches and with the other guys in the team, it’s such a great opportunity for me”.
According to the ITF, The Grand Slam Development Fund is designed to encourage the establishment of both junior and professional tournament circuits which in turn, provide opportunities for a greater number of players to compete and to assist players directly, either through teams or travel grants, to gain international competitive experience so that more nations and players will be represented in the mainstream of international competition.
The fund is administered by the ITF. Players have received assistance from the ITF/GSDF the past include current women's World No. 1 Simona Halep, former World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na, triple French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten, Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov and India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.