A HIGHCLIFFE teenager has aced an international tennis tournament in Malta, winning his own age group as well as the one above – and dropping only one set in the process.
Callum Matthew (13) faced talented youngsters from Denmark, Russia, Malta, France, Georgia, Cyprus and Italy in the Ten Pro Global Tour event, contesting both the U13 and U14 age groups.
He applied to compete after being awarded funding by the Dorset LTA in recognition for reaching a Great Britain top-10 ranking.
In temperatures hitting the mid-30s, Callum cruised through both group stages before having to play two semi-finals on the same day, and both finals the day after.
He said: “My U13 semi-final was tough. He took me to three sets, where I fought back from a set and 3-0 down. By then I knew I would face the same French opponent in the U14 category final the next day, and if I came out on top in this match I’d have a huge advantage mentally for the final.
“I’d previously fought back from a set and 4-0 down in a national event and I just gave it everything, eventually winning 6-7 6-4 6-0.”
In the finals, Callum faced a tough opponent from Russia, as well as the French boy who had taken him to three sets the previous day. After dispatching the Russian 6-1 6-2 in the U13s in the morning, Callum clinched the U14s on the hottest afternoon of the tournament, 6-0 6-4.
“I played my best tennis of the tournament in the first set and then hit a wall with the heat in the second set,” said Callum. “I’ve never played in conditions like that before and felt drained of energy and knew it was down to a battle of fitness.”
The Highcliffe School pupil regularly competes around the UK in both singles and doubles events playing in the U14, U16 and U18 age categories. His intense training schedule of up to 15 hours a week includes fitness, squads, individual lessons and some very early starts.
Callum’s coach at Wimborne Tennis Club, Phil Loose, said: “I’ve been coaching Callum for a couple of years now and in all my years coaching I’ve never seen such a hard-working, dedicated young man. I’m so proud of him winning this event in both age categories. If he keeps this up, he has a great future in the game. He is an absolute joy to coach.”
Callum has previously represented the south west in national events in both U10 and U12 age categories. In 2016, Callum played in the Ten Pro event at the Mouratoglou Academy in the south of France, winning four out of six matches.
The talented teen is also part of the Dorset county training squad, the South West of England regional training squad and has recently extended his training programme to the LTA Regional Development Centre at Bath University.
Callum’s brother Jamie Matthew (6) and sister Freya Matthew (8) from Highcliffe St Mark’s Primary School are following in their big brother’s footsteps, with both part of the U8 and U9 Dorset County Training programme.
Callum’s dad Denzil said his son had big ambitions: “Playing at Wimbledon remains Callum’s ultimate dream.
“We are really proud of how he manages to juggle his training schedule with school commitments and his social life. The school has been so supportive of Callum for which we are extremely grateful.”