Nine-year-old Philippe Blanc of Potomac won the Gatorade "G" Standout/IMG TOTAL ATHLETE Award last month at the IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program in Bradenton, Fla. The honor was given on a weekly basis at the summer camp, and Blanc won during its first week.
“For people that don’t know, Nick Bollettieri is to tennis what Vince Lombardi is to football, John Wooden to basketball,” said Academy coach Mark Dalzell, who added that at least 10 No. 1-ranked pro players have trained at the Bradenton site. “This award embodies what he wants in a top-level tennis player. People who win it are basically kids we want here full-time.”
Blanc says he is “thinking about” one day attending Bollettieri’s year-round boarding school, one of seven offered in Bradenton.
He also plays football, soccer and golf, but is only serious about tennis. This summer, he plays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with two one-hour breaks.
However, he was only in Bradenton for one of the camp’s five weeks, going with an older friend June 19-25. The instruction was that of a professional player’s, including mental conditioning, strategy and nutrition concepts complementing 4 1/2 hours of daily court time.
Blanc’s coach at the camp, Cajethan Osuigwe, said his intelligence equaled his skill level.
“Nick was very impressed because of the kind of questions he asked,” Osuigwe said. “He is a real candidate for the school because we don’t just give any Dick and Harry admission here. He’s very hard-working, actually knows what he’s doing, and if he comes as a full-timer this kid is going to reach his limit.”
Gatorade collaborated with the Bollettieri Academy at the beginning of the year, with the deal including a Player of the Week award, according to Darzell. Three hundred campers were split into groups of between 16 and 20, he said, with each “going above and beyond the call of duty to prove themselves.”
His peers came from as far as Russia.
“They said right when I got there that if you hustle, try hard and show enthusiasm, you’ll win the award,” Blanc said.
He did so with the world’s best players around him. Darzell said it was common for players such as Tommy Haas, once the second-ranked player in the world, to be practicing on a court right next to the youngsters.
Blanc already has pro aspirations. As he put it: “That’s what I want to do when I grow up.”