US scholarship helps Sizeland follow passion
The experience was too good to miss out on for Hamilton tennis player Tom Sizeland - next Tuesday the 18-year-old will move to the United States as he takes his next step in the sport.
Sizeland is heading to Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina, on a scholarship, where he will combine study with his love of tennis.
Having finished at Hillcrest High School last year, Sizeland will undertake a four-year degree, studying pre-medicine, majoring in biology.
It is his prowess on the courts though that has assisted him in getting a scholarship, with Auckland-based business Play Atlantic setting him on his way.
"I got in contact with them and they get in contact with colleges and kind of help you through the process and give you options and it just goes from there," Sizeland said.
Having played tennis since primary school, Sizeland has always wanted to play college tennis in America, and on his venture he will be joining fellow Kiwi James Corfield, who has been at the college for 18 months.
Sizeland has been training with the New Zealand Tennis Academy, based in Waikato, since its inception a few years ago, with coaches Gerrit Steenkamp and Guillaume Gignoux.
He has represented New Zealand in under-13s and under-15s, and made the semifinals of the indoor nationals for under-17s in 2010. Also in that year he won the under-17 doubles national championships with fellow former Waikato player Jaden Grinter.
Last season, Sizeland was part of the Lugton Park interclub team which won the senior premier Waikato competition and he made the round of 16 at the under-19 nationals.
He has just come back from a month of playing in France, where he got to test himself against some stronger competition.
"It was a good trip. I played about 28 matches over there, ended up winning one tournament and got about six bottles of wine for that because it was in Bordeaux, so that was good," said Sizeland, who also got his first taste of playing on clay courts.
"You slide a lot, I enjoy sliding, it's quite fun, but the ball bounces a bit higher, a bit slower, it reacts to spins more. So there's different nuances to playing on clay court as opposed to hard court, that takes a while to get used to."
Sizeland's tennis idol is Roger Federer and despite the Swiss maestro not being able to claim an Olympic gold medal in London, the youngster wasn't dwelling on it. "Yeah, it would've been nice if he'd won gold, but at least he got Wimbledon and he's back to number one in the world."
When Sizeland touches down in the States it will be the off-season so there will be lots of individual tournaments for him to play before the Christmas break, which precedes the main part of the season - the inter-collegiate matches in each state.
Sizeland wants to do the best he can for his college team and also play some club tennis in France at some stage, but besides that, he will just see where the sport takes him, with no major goals in mind.
"I think it'll be a good experience and I won't want to miss out on it," he said of this endeavour.
"And also I love tennis, I'll be playing the game I love.
"And it's also given me a chance for a cheaper education over there.
"I'll probably try and come home for a few Christmases but I imagine over summer I'll probably stay over there and get a summer job, try and travel a bit maybe, get an American experience."