Tommy Bennett, an ex-Priory School student and an 18-year-old Sussex tennis star who played at Junior Wimbledon last summer, departed for the USA in August to start his next tennis adventure – at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
After a semester of settling in and training with his new team-mates and coaches, and adjusting to the hot and sometimes humid climate, 2013 has got off to a flying start
In the past few weeks Rice hosted competitive matches against four other universities: Texas Tech, Mississippi State, Lamar and Texas Pan-Am.
Tommy said: “Getting used to some of the new rules like ‘sudden death deuce’ and ‘no-let calls on serve’, and being part of a team has taken some adjustment, but has added to the excitement and tension.”
Rice is currently ranked 55 in Division 1, but with two new freshmen now has a good chance of moving up the rankings. Tommy is currently playing at No 4 (in a team of six) and this year his record is: Singles 4-0, Doubles 3-1. One notable win was against Mississippi’s top new recruit who reached 28th in the ITF Junior World Rankings. His new doubles partner and room-mate, is from Sweden, and the head coach believes they can forge a formidable partnership.
The facilities at Rice, a relatively small private University, on both the academic and athletic front are excellent. The football stadium once hosted the Super Bowl, the basketball and baseball facilities are state of the art. There is a 50m outdoor pool, athletics track, other sports are also catered for, and plans for a new $7 million tennis complex should be breaking ground this month.
Rice University is also well known within Sussex academia as Nobel Prize-winner Sir Harry Kroto (ex-Sussex Uni) worked there.
For the tennis team February saw trips to Miami and San Diego, and every weekend through to April will see the tennis team competing hard.
Tommy said: “I could be flogging around the UK playing at cold, inhospitable venues, getting stuck on motorways in the snow OR playing and training in Texas – I think it’s a no-brainer, It’s a fabulous experience and I hope my four years don’t go too fast.”
Time will tell if it will lead to the pro-circuit, but with a good degree as well, Tommy’s options remain open.