With a tennis racquet and his bags packed with dreams of being âdiscovered,â thirteen-year-old Tatsuki Shimamoto left his family and home in Nagoya, Japan. 7,434 miles and 15.5 hours later, he arrived at his destination: the Nick Bollettieri Discovery Open hosted by IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., June 1-4.
The inaugural singles-only event featured 85 of the world's top 11, 13 and 15-year-old tennis players, representing nearly 20 countries. Shimamoto and the other players competed for a free week of camp evaluation, with the overall standout earning the opportunity to train year-round at IMG Academy.
Throughout the tournament Shimamoto not only showcased his tennis skills during tournament play, but he also had the opportunity to participate in off-court sessions including a tennis fundamentals clinic hosted by legendary coach Nick Bollettieri and a performance workout hosted by TRX. Additionally, he attended tennis strategy sessions, communications training and performance testing offered by Combine360.
Seeded No. 1 in the tournament, Shimamoto defeated top-ranked players from the United States and New Zealand, before eventually falling 5-7, 1-6 to No. 2 seed, Gianni Ross of the United States, in the boy's 13s finals.
Looking back on his performance, âI was nervous in the beginning. But, as the tournament went on, I got used to it. I know winning takes a lot of effort, but being able to play and beat such competitive players helps me gain confidence.â
Fast forward three weeks later, Shimamoto is back on IMG Academy's campus for a week long summer camp that he was awarded for his excellent performance in the Nick Bollettieri Discovery Open. This week, his mother, Keiko, joined her son to visit the tennis mecca that has produced 10 world No. 1 players.
âI was worried about whether I would be able to do all the things by myself, but all of the staff at IMG welcomed me, and that made me feel very comfortable,â reflected Shimamoto on his journey to the tournament earlier in the month.
Shimamoto said he enjoys playing tennis at IMG Academy and would like to train here full time in the future. If so, he would follow in the footsteps of fellow Japanese star and current ATP World No. 20, Kei Nishikori, who at 14, moved from Shimane, Japan, to train full time at IMG Academy.
âMy goal is to become a professional tennis player and win grand slam titles,â he said.
As Shimamoto heads back on court to continue practicing, this dream becomes closer to reality.