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EX-FLEET STREET JOURNALIST DONNA GEE SHARES SOME REMARKABLE TALES OF COSTA BLANCA LIVING

All systems pro for Spain's new Nadal, 17
24 May 2017

TORREVIEJA tennis sensation Nicola Kuhn has joined the elite list of juniors to win a men's professional title – just two months after his 17th birthday.

Blond-haired Kuhn, youngest player in the draw, and potentially Spain's next Rafa Nadal, thrashed Davis Cup star Attila Balasz 6-4 6-0 in a one-sided final to take the $15,000 Hungary F2 Futures crown on the shores of picturesque Lake Balaton.

 

Top-seed Balasz, 11 years older than the 6ft 1in Kuhn and seven times champion of Hungary, had no answer to Nico's versatility and confidence as the Spanish teenager powered to victory in just 104 minutes.

 

Hungary F2 Futures champion ...and Nico is hungry for more success  

the previous four days, unseeded Kuhn had seen off four other experienced east European pros, all of them at least three years his senior,

 

Saturday's glorious achievement came just two weeks after Nico produced the shock of the Mutua Madrid Open in beating world number 61 Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-5 6-0 in the qualifying competition.

 

The Basilashvili win catapulted him exactly 100 places up the ATP ladder to world number 612 – and the 18 ranking points he earned for Saturday's Futures victory in Hungary will lift him to the fringe of the top 500 when next week's rankings are announced.

 

Kuhn, who has targeted a top 200 ranking by the end of this year, has been virtually unstoppable since severing his six-year tie with the prestigious Equelite Tennis Academy in Villena earlier this year.

 

The academy, run by former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, was a major influence in Innsbruck-born Nico's development – but constant commuting between La Mata and Villena took its toll on him and his parents, who moved to the Costa Blanca when Nico was three months old. The family eventually decided to put Nico's future into the hands of Torrevieja-based Pedro Caprota, the man who coached him before he moved to Villena, along with a new fitness coach, Cristian Ramajo, a new nutritionist and a new physiotherapist.

 

Nico is now playing the best tennis of his life and becomes only the second player born this century to win a pro title. He began the year as the world's fifth-ranked junior, but is now concentrating on climbing the ATP rankings list and thus avoiding the qualifying rat-race at senior level.

 

Top team: Nico with coach Pedro Caprota

I wanted to make a change because I thought it would be best for me and my tennis,'' he says of the decision to leave the Ferrero set-up. “At the moment it is proving so. These things happen, there are times when you need a different direction and look for a change.''

Nico, who is seeded number five at this week's F3 Hungary Futures tournament at Balatonalmadi, plans to compete in only two junior competitions this year – the French Open and Wimbledon.

 

His lack of recent action at junior level has seen him drop from number five to 28 in the world rankings. However, he's more than happy with the compensation of having climbed almost 200 ATP places this month.

 

Balasz was ranked almost 400 slots higher than Kuhn before Saturday's final - but the ease of Nico's victory in Hungary and the earlier win over Basilashvili suggests that the Torry teenager is a far better player than his current ranking suggests.

 

''Right now the biggest handicap for me is the physical one,'' he confesses as he prepares to take on the biggest, strongest and most experienced stars of men's tennis. “It is something that the team and I are training to improve. The opponents I have faced recently are already men - and I am still a child.

Right now my priority is to win the maximum possible matches and to keep improving''.

https://www.facebook.com/NicolaKuhntennis/



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Kid Kuhn targets US Open tennis glory with a Brit of Costa help
02 September 2016

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: Nicola Kuhn (centre) with tennis legend John McEnroe at Wimbledon in July. Also pictured are men's singles finalist Milos Raonic (second right), Nico's coach Fran Martinez (extreme left) and Raonic's coach Carlos Moya, himself a former world No.1 

 

 

 

 

EUROPEAN tennis wonderkid Nicola Kuhn is on the verge of the big-time after leaping more than 400 places up the ATP men's world rankings  in just two weeks.


And the 16-year-old Spanish sensation's stunning form comes at the ideal time with the junior United States Open scheduled to begin at Flushing Meadows this weekend. .

 

Nico, his country's top-ranked junior and ranked No.17 in the world at 18-and-under level, headed for the States brimming with confidence. "I am very happy with my form,'' insisted the star pupil of former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero's Equilite Academy in Villena.

 

"Last year's US Open was my first Grand Slam experience and I learnt a lot from it. I'll be spending much of my time working on my game and my fitness - and I am confident I can do well.''

 

Multi-lingual Nico, whose international pedigree includes Spanish, Austrian, German, Russian and even British connections, had to play through three qualifying rounds last year and went out in the first round of the main competition. This time, he goes straight into the main draw seeded as a genuine contender for the title - an achievement that would make him one of the youngest players to win a junior Grand Slam. 

 

 

In his first taste of the  senior ATP Challenger circuit, the blond six-footer celebrated his wild card entry by beating world No.320 Juan Pablo Paz of Argentina in the  first round at Meerbusch in Germany two weeks ago.

 

He followed that up by storming into the semi-final of last week's ITF Futures tournament in Santander. 

 

 

 

The seven ranking points that went with the Challenger victory lifted Nico to No.1015 behind the legendary Novak Djokovic - a jump of nearly 1,000 places since the beginning of the year. And the six points he amassed in Santander will lift him another 100-plus places when the next rankings list is published. .

 

Although he lost 6-2 6-3 at Meerbusch to eventual tournament winner Florian Mayer, the Kuhn kid was far from outclassed by a 32-year-old player who has beaten both Andy Murray and Rafel Nadal and has twice reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

 

Kid Kuhn in action at the Meeerbusch Challenger tournament

Top-seeded Mayer, once world No.18, dropped out of the top 100  after a succession of injuries. However, the German's recent form has been scintillating, and he has soared back to No.59 after a run of ten successive victories and back-to-back Challenger tournaments wins.

 

None of Mayer's subsequent opponents at Meerbusch did any better than Kuhn, who has targeted a place in the top 600 by the end of the year.

 
 

In his first taste of the  senior Challenger circuit, Spain’s top junior celebrated his wild card entry by beating world No.320 Juan Pablo Paz of Argentina in the  first round at Meerbusch in Germany.

 

The seven ranking points that went with the victory lifted Nico to No.1015 behind the legendary Novak Djokovic - a jump of nearly 1,000 places since the beginning of the year.

 

And although he lost 6-2 6-3 at Meerbusch to eventual tournament winner Florian Mayer, the young pretender was far from outclassed by a player twice his age, who has beaten both Andy Murray and Rafel Nadal in the past - and twice reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

 

Nico on his way to the junior French Open 
semi final at Roland Garros earlier this year

NicTop-seeded Mayer, once ranked world No.18, dropped out of the top 100  after a succession of injuries. However, the German's recent form has been scintillating, and he has soared back to No.59 after a run of ten successive victories and back-to-back Challenger tournaments wins.

 

Nico said of  the Mayer experience: "It was a match with some opportunities. I broke him two or three times on his serve, but couldn't hold mine because I can't serve as hard as he does. I also made some mistakes and he also had some luck. 

 

"The second set was more open till 3-3, then he went a gear higher and I couldn't break him back. I feel I have the level, but I need to improve my fitness. He said I played good and I should continue like this.''

 

None of Mayer's subsequent opponents at Meerbusch did any better than Kuhn, who has targeted a place in the ATP top 600 by the end of the year. 

 

Kid Kuhn, whose dad is German and mother Russian, was born in Austria three months before his parents moved to the Costa Blanca and settled in a predominantly British expat community in the Costa Blanca holiday resort of Torrevieja.

 

With a multi-national background like that, Nico could open up a whole new world of fame if all goes well in New York. 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

  3 Attached Images



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Costa superkid tames Britain's tennis No.1
15 April 2016

TENNIS tug-o'-war kid Nicola Kuhn celebrated his official switch to Spanish citizenship by winning the nation's top  junior tournament on Sunday. And in the process he blew away the challenge of top-seed Jay Clarke, the Derby youngster being touted in Britain as a future Andy Murray. 

Just three weeks after his 16th birthday, Kuhn, the most prodigious young talent in Spain, won the Juan Carlos Ferrero Trophy at Villena – the country's only Grade 1 tournament for players aged 18 and under. It was his second tennis crown in a row after he bagged the Grade 2 title at Vinaros, near Castellon the previous week.

And to emphasise his huge talent, the superfit Torrevieja six-footer was the youngest competitor in each tournament.

The back-to-back titles earned Kuhn, pictured above, a mammoth 250 ITF ranking points, rocketing him to No.21 in the world rankings, one of only two players in the top 100 born in the 21st century.  His success has also and providing a timely morale-booster for his first tilt at the French Open at Roland Garros next month.

The son of a German father and Russian mother, Nico and his family have lived in Torrevieja since he was three months old. However, he switched his tennis allegiance to Germany when the country he regards as home felt unable to help with his colossal travel and equipment costs.

Over the past four years the Kuhn kid has led the German juniors to a string of successes, including the Final of last year's Junior Davis Cup, in which he was voted the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Despite those successes, Nico never felt totally comfortable playing for Germany, even though he speaks the language fluently, along with English and Russian.

I have always felt more Spanish than anything – and Spain has always been my home,'' he says. And with major sponsors like La Liga, Nike and Yonex now backing his progress, last year he began the process of switching to playing under the Spanish flag.

The process proved to be far more complicated than Nico and his parents had expected – not least the red tape involved in obtaining a Spanish passport in addition to the one Nico already had.

The official switch finally came last week, coinciding with the Juan Carlos Ferrero tournament – which also happens to be his 'home' base. He has trained and studied at former world No.1 Ferrero's's academy since he was 12 and his victory in Sunday's final against fellow Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina confirmed him as Spain's top junior player.

The manner of his victory in the final was not ideal, Fokina retiring with a back injury with Kuhn takng the first set 6-3 and leading 1-0 in the second set.

But the No.7 seed had been in supreme form all week, as epitomised by his 6-1, 6-3 thrashing of 17-year-old Clarke, Britain's No.1 junior,– in the quarter-final.

Nico, who began 2016 ranked No.70, is well ahead of schedule in his declared aim of reaching the world Top 10 this year. He has also set his sights on climbing into the ATP's top 600 and providing a springboard to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a top professional player.

At his current rate of progress, it seems merely a matter of when, rather than if King Kuhn will achieve his ultimate ambition. He has already sampled the Grand Slaam atmosphere at the 2015 US Open and this year's Australian Open. Now he feels he is ready to make a serious challenge for a top junior title - and  has earmarked Wimbledon in July as his prime target this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Spain's tennis superkid faces Australian Open dilemma
15 January 2016

 
Costa Blanca tennis sensation Nicola Kuhn must compete in next week's Australian Junior Open championship as a German – thanks to Spanish administrative bungling.
 
Kuhn, arguably the best 15-year-old player on the planet, has lived in Torrevieja since he was three months old. Yet he has been competing in team events for his father Alfred's homeland since he was 12, when the Germans beat the cash-strapped Spanish tennis authorities to the ball by offering to contribute to Nico's ever-increasing travel and equipment expenses.
 
Two years ago, the blond Costa kid led his adopted country to the World Under 14 title and last October powered Germany into the Junior Davis Cup final, winning 11 singles matches on the trot and picking up the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
 
Despite a truly international background, Austrian-born Nico's heart has always been with Spain. His mother Rita is Russian but he admits: “I have always felt more Spanish than anything.''
 
He has been given permission to compete for Spain as an individual in future tournaments, subject to obtaining a Spanish passport .
 
The paperwork should have been a formality but as those of us who live here are only too well aware, nothing ever runs smoothly in Spain – and El Nico is still waiting for the elusive document several months after applying for it.
 
Ideally, he would be competing as a Spaniard in Australia, the first Grand Slam tournament of 2016, but following frustrating bureaucratic delays, his father Alfred concedes: "As long as Nico has to wait for his Spanish passport, he has to play under the German flag.''
 
Young Kuhn also faces two years in limbo before he can put his German international allegiance fully behind him and compete in team events for Spain.
 
By the time he was 12, Nico had amassed a treasure chest of silverware in local tournaments. Hooked on tennis since Rita and Alfred bought him a racket for his third birthday, he joined the prestigious Equilite Tennis Academy run by former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.
 
For the past three years he has commuted almost daily between his home in La Mata and the academy in Villena. That adds up to a round trip of 208 kilometres for his regular chauffeurs, namely his overworked parents.
 
And after a sensational 2015 and three months before his 16th birthday, Nico began 2016 as one of only two 15 year-olds in the world’s top 50 junior (18 and under) players. He also has a chance to make tennis history in Melbourne as one of the youngest players ever to win a Junior Grand Slam title.
 
Kuhn's 2015 form earned him enough ranking points to go straight into the main draw for the Australian Junior Open – and after disposing of three of the current World Top 10 in that record victory sequence in the Junior Davis Cup, he looks capable of beating any of the main contenders.
 
Nico's coach Fran Martinez, intent of keeping the youngster's feet firmly on the ground, plays down suggestions that he is the world’s best player born in the 21st century. Yet official ITF records show that he has achieved more at the age of 15 than Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer,
Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal managed in their youth.
 
Nico’s mentor Ferrero predicts: "I think he can be a great player and can reach a very high level if he continues working with the same mentality."
 
Boris Becker, who won Wimbledon at the age of 17, went even further after watching Kuhn in action a couple of years ago. ''He’s a better player than I was at his age,’’ conceded the
German legend.
 
Kuhn’s remarkable progress in 2015 won him the title of Alicante province's Most Promising sports star – and prompted Spain's national football authority La Liga to provide an extra kick by roping him into a new sponsorship package involving three top junior sports stars.
''I am not 100 per cent happy,’’ Nico says of his current international status as a German player.
 
''The ITF rule says I can’t play team competitions for Spain for two years - but I can
play under the Spanish flag.
 
''As for my tennis, I know I can get great results. But I need to work hard and focus on the next year.’’
 
 


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Look out, there's a Costa criminal about!
20 November 2015

The gullibility of Brits in the Spanish Costas, and not only tourists, never ceases to amaze me.

Virtually every day I hear that someone or other has been the victim of a pickpocket or handbag snatch.

The experience of being mugged in public is both traumatic and disruptive, particularly if your passport happens to be among the stolen items. Which is why I have always been ultra-careful when it comes to protecting my possessions.

I have never been robbed – unless you count the evening I found 45 euros in notes on the floor of the Irish bar in El Raso and gave it to a tipsy punter who claimed he had dropped it. I realised when I got home that the money had fallen out of my own purse!

OK, that was stupid – but nowhere near as daft as those male tourists who wander around Spanish markets with their wallets wedged in the back pocket of their shorts. And the women who leave their handbags on a table or chair while they chat to friends, only to discover when they come to pay the bill that they have no money…and no handbag.

It happened to a friend of mine a while back. She went for a coffee after a busy day at work, plonked her handbag down alongside her and when she next looked - whoosh, it had vanished.

The sting was that this particular lady invariably carried all her documents, including her passport, in that bag, not to mention a considerable amount of money. It was an experience that will live with her until her dying day – and the saddest thing of all is that it could have so easily been avoided.

My friend has been living in Spain for some time, but most of the victims of the petty thieves tend to be tourists. They are so hell-bent on enjoying themselves that being robbed is the last thing on their minds. What juicy pickings for the villains...

I follow a regular procedure with my handbag. When I am in a public place, I always wrap the strap around my wrist so it can’t be snatched. And when I sit down, the strap goes under a chair or table-leg so it can only ‘vanish’ accompanied by an entourage of furniture.

Oh, and I NEVER take a bag to market – I carry cash in notes and wedge them into my bra. It means that no-one can rob me without being arrested for indecent assault!

My advice to men is that if you go anywhere where there’s a large crowd, leave your wallet at home, in your hotel, or hidden under the carpet in your car boot. Put the cash you need in your trouser pocket (not the back one!) and to make the fortress impregnable, how about keeping your hand in your pocket as you walk around?

While Spain’s Moroccan and Romanian communities are thought to be behind the majority of bag-snatches, I suspect the perpetrators come from more diverse roots. What one does have to concede is that these ladrones, however much reviled, have a remarkable skill.

One person I know had her purse stolen from the handbag on her shoulder as she browsed her way around a crowded department store. The thief not only unzipped the bag and removed the purse without anyone noticing – but also zipped the bag up again!

It was the best part of half an hour before my friend realised she’d been robbed. And the way it was done suggests that the perpetrator could make a decent living as a stage magician or in a circus.

But then, theatre audiences are not quite so generous to the sleight-of-hand merchants as the mugs they feed off every day…



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A terminal problem at Alicante Airport
10 November 2015

I have a terminal illness. It's called Alicante Airport's No.1 runway- and last week it flew to the top of my most embarrassing moments. By a distance.

 

I made a public exhibition of myself in front of half the population of Spain. Or to be more accurate, everyone at the weekly Fun Quiz at Monte's Bar in Los Montesinos.

 

The British expat community here in the Costas, particularly those of us growing longer in the tooth (if we have any left) are quite partial to quiz evenings. It's good fun, the partaking is more important than the winning (she lied) and for anyone who has a semblance of a brain, the nearest we'll ever get to a Mastermind audition.

 

It is also living proof that nostalgia really is what it used to be...and one of the few benefits of being a Golden Girl.

 

Last week's cliffhanger at Monte's ended in two-way deadlock, so our team of Marjory, Ian, the two Pats and yours truly found ourselves facing a tie-breaker question. My lips broke into a quiet smirk as my disintegrating memory flashed back to the previous occasion two teams finished all square. We weren't involved, so my guess was irrelevant – but when I hit the exact figure for the capacity of Lord's cricket ground (28,000) our gang were gobsmacked.

 

This time it was another numbers game. How long, in metres, is the main runway at Alicante Airport? Cue suggestions from the team of 3,000 and 4,000. ''It's much more than that, insisted Mrs Knowall, “Something like 9,000 I reckon.''

 

'Sum thing' had clearly snapped as I tried to figure out the difference between metres and yards because in my mind it seemed to make sense. To have Darren standing over us waiting for an answer merely added to my confusion.

 

Amazingly my stubbornness prevailed, despite everyone else's enormous doubts. I got my way and we lost by a distance.

 

I paid for it big time, too. The repeated peals of laughter that accompanied our normally sedate drive back to El Raso were all at my expense.

 

And if you are ever confronted by an imaginary runway stretching from Alicante Airport through El Altet and out cross the Mediterranean, you know where it came from.

 

 

 

 



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Julio Iglesias sings from his sporting heart, unlike sham British stars
30 October 2015

Here in Spain, I suppose it’s Julio Iglesias who epitomises the ultimate connection between music and sport. Unless, that is,  you count the 1992 Olympic Games and Montserrat Caballé’s ear-piercing rendering of Barcelona.

 

It’s common knowledge that Julio was once Real Madrid’s  youth team goalkeeper – and remains a keen supporter of  Los Blancos.

 

But can you imagine a young Paul McCartney beetling around England following his favourite football team? I certainly can't.

 

That’s not to say that sport and music don’t mix – just that Mac the Knight seems about as steeped in the beautiful game as old codgers like myself are besotted with rap music.

 

Yet various websites would have it that Sir Paul is a keen Everton fan.

The reality, however, is not exactly engraved in blue-and-white stone. ‘‘Here's the deal,’’ the great man explains. ‘’My father was born in Everton, my family are officially Evertonians, so if it comes down to a derby match or an FA Cup final between the two, I would have to support Everton.


"But after a concert at Wembley Arena I got into a bit of a friendship with Kenny Dalglish, who had been to the gig, and I thought 'You know what? I am just going to support them both because it's all Liverpool and I don't have that Catholic-Protestant thing.'

"So I did have to get special dispensation from the Pope to do this but that's it, too bad. I support them both.
"They are both great teams. But if it comes to the crunch, I'm Evertonian."

 

Personally, I would have thought that master musicians of McCartney’s talent would be too driven by their first love to be sidetracked by such trivialities as football. And it’s clear from his comments that Paul is a bit of a sporting fence-sitter, anyway.

 

At least his explanation sounds marginally more sincere than fellow Beatle Ringo Starr’s assertion that he’s a Liverpool supporter because ''I like the colour red”, which  presumably he also bangs the drum for every red-shirted team from Arsenal to Aberdeen. Well, I love the colour purple but that doesn’t mean I support the team they call the Royals – be it the monarchy or Reading FC.

 

The only celebrity I actually KNEW before he was famous is another shining knight, Tom Jones (yes, I am that old!). I gave him his first-ever write-ups in the Pontypridd Observer a couple of years before he hit the big-time – in the days where he sang around the South Wales clubs under his stage name of  Tommy Scott.

 

Whilst Tom (pictured as I knew him) may have been built like a sportsman, I can assure you he never showed the slightest interest in football, rugby or any other sport. And believe me he definitely was neither gay nor a wimp.

 

Cardiff City, the nearest professional football club to Pontypridd, were in the old First Division - the equivalent of the Premier League. But although I was a keen Bluebirds fan myself, the only birds Tom was interested in were certainly not blue. Nor had he any time for Spurs, Manchester United or any of the other big-name teams of that era.

 

The sporting fraternity sometimes wheels the great man out onto the green, green grass of home to sing at the occasional Wales rugby international and what have you. But while the old Jones heart may still beat for his homeland, I doubt that Sir Tom's head really cares about match results, whatever the shape of the ball.

 

Having said that, many celebrities are completely smitten by sport - and particularly football. Some to the point that their names are synonymous with their favourites - for example the oasis of Gallaghers at Manchester City and Mick Hucknell’s simply-red love affair with Manchester United.

 

Others, I am convinced, just attach themselves to the mast of the big-name clubs for effect. Teams like Manchester United and Arsenal, for example, have such large fan bases that showing token support for them might just persuade a few extra fans to buy their CDs and albums.

 

Conversely, when I was young (and there aren’t many people alive who remember that!), major pop stars were rarely linked with sports teams. Presumably with professional footballers no better off financially than miners or postmen, there was no glamour spin-off for the marketing people.

 

Indeed, I can’t remember Elvis Presley, the biggest name in music during that era, having any particular sporting allegiance. And the only British top-tenner I recall with strong football ties was Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers fame.

 

Until he came on the scene, if you weren’t a fan of Hollywood musicals, the song You’ll Never Walk Alone would have meant nothing to you.to the vast majority of people.

 

Now Marsden’s name is likely to live as long in the Anfield memory as those of Bill Shankly and Dalglish.

And thereby hangs a tale – because some sources insist that until Liverpool fans adopted his 1963 smash hit as their club anthem, Gerry was in fact an Evertonian.

 

Perhaps it’s time he had a chat with Macca and Ringo.

 



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Tennis superkid Nico - a blond new hero for Brits in Spain
29 October 2015

British tennis fans may have a long wait for a successor to root for once Andy Murray passes his sell-by date.

So how about a blond 15-year-old superkid whose truly international pedigree adds instant irresistability to his image as the best young prospect in the game?

Nicola Kuhn is also considerably better looking than misery-mouth Murray - and, unlike the sour-faced Scot, has also been known to smile when he wins.

A multi-cultured European, young is not so much on the ladder to international stardom. He is already halfway there - as the best player on the planet born in the 21st century. And while he will technically be a Junior until 2019, next year is likely to see his big breakthrough.

Two weeks ago, the Austrian-born superkid led Germany to the grand final of the Junior Davis Cup, winning an unparallelled 11 successive singles matches in a competition involving 134 nations. In the final against Canada, he comfortably beat Felix Auger-Aliassime, whose rocketing success against senior professionals on the ATP circuit has been grabbing headlines all over the world - not least on Youtube.

THE NAME IS BLOND.....GAMES BLOND,

Nico's reward for his achievements this year was a Wild Card entry to last weekend's qualifying competition at  the Valencia Open, n ATP World Tour event won in 2014 by Andy Murray and this year featuring world No.7 David Ferrer and controversial Australian Nick Kyrgios among the seeds.

When he stepped on to the Centre Court for the first time on Saturday, Nico was  just three matches from a head to head with Ferrer or Kyrgios in the main draw. The sting was that his opponent was world No.132 Yuichi Sugita, a Japanese Davis Cup veteran and 12 years Nico's senior.

Ultimately, Sugita's subtle experience brought him a 6-2, 6-3 victory that was considerably less comfortable than the scoreline suggests. In fact, he was almost lost for words when he was told after the match that Nico is 15 years old.. "Un-be-lievable,'' he gasped. "Never in my life have I seen a player so young who can play that good. He is a star in the making, for sure.''

Nico's training and playing kit is as colourful as his tennis

So who exactly is Nicola Kuhn and why am I touting him to become one of the game's biggest names? Well, let's just say he looks the complete Tennis Super-hero  package, complemented by a squeeky clean image that is already endearing him to mums and dads as much as to teenage fans. 

Nico's roots are fascinatingly complex. Born in Austria, his family moved to the Costa Blanca when he was three months old. His father, Alfred, is German, mum Rita (from whom he inherited his blond complexion) is Russian and they live in a predominantly British urbanisation at Torrevieja. Nico speaks Spanish, German, English and Russian fluently...and if you push him regarding his nationality, he will concede quietly that he feels more Spanish than anything.

Which suggests that a major decision could be in the pipeline over his future tennis loyalties in team competitions like Davis Cup.

By the time he was three, the Kuhn kid was begging his parents for a  tennis racket - and he's been besotted with the game ever since. He also demonstrated almost instantly at Torrevieja Tennis Club that he is a natural, winning local and regional events at every childhood level.

By 2012, even the great Boris Becker was talking about him, describing the 12-year-old prodigy as "a better player than I was at his age.'' 

Nico with his tennis mentor Juan Carlos Ferrero in 2013

It was around that time that another tennis legend, former World No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, came into Nico's life. For the past four years, the youngster has been commuting daily between his home in Torrevieja and Ferrero's prestigious Equilite Tennis Academy at Villena, near Valencia. 

The exhausting 208-kilometre round trip to combine tennis practice and academic studies would drain any normal human being. But Nico is a one-off - he supplements the travel torture with an intense  training regime that burns off a cool 5,500 calories a day. 

His tennis advisers at the Equilite, headed by coach Fran Martinez, are determined to keep his feet on the ground, which is why they are not particularly partial to articles like this one eulogising their most valuable young asset.

I understand their logic, but I'm a professional journalist and this is a good story full of positive vibes. So, with apologies to those who want to keep his CV under wraps, I hereby introduce the new 007 of teenage sport to you.

He answers to the name of Blond. Games Blond, that is. You could even try calling him Nico Teen but that's as near as he's ever likely to get to the vices of youth culture.

The last 12 months has seen Nicola rocket more than 1,000 places up the world junior (19 and under) rankings. By the end of this year.he will be in the top 40 - and one of the youngest as well.

However, Nico has already thrown his hat in with the professionals, having won his first ATP ranking point in May this year, two months after his 15th birthday. To understand the significance of that statistic, Rafael Nadal was six months older when he achieved the same feat.

Go Nico!

And finally, Nico meets the woman of his dreams...ME!

 

 

 

 

 

Donna Gee

donna773@aol.com



Like 0        Published at 08:19   Comments (0)


Tom Jones, Spain and a dark stranger: The ultimate coincidence
19 October 2015

The real world really can be stranger than fiction. My reunion in a remote Costa Blanca bar with a dark stranger from my youth takes some believing...

I was driving my visitor John home from a mini shopping trip in Quesada last summer when – not for the first time – he decided he fancied a beer. Hardly surprising on a hot summer’s afternoon in the tranquility of Doña Pepa.

‘’That place looks friendly enough,’’ said my former Sunday People colleague as our eyes fell on half a dozen people chatting happily over a drink in the sunshine.

We were in a sleepy sidestreet, not exactly a hotbed of tourist activity. And certainly not the sort of place to revive distant memories of my teenage years in South Wales.

The sunshine six, four women and two men, were clearly enjoying themselves. And my ears pricked up when one of the women suddenly giggled:

‘‘You Welsh – you’re all the same!’’

Nosey dragon that I am, I got up and sidled over. ‘’So who’s Welsh here, then?’’ I grinned, summoning up my best valleys accent..

I actually left South Wales when I was 20, but my celtic patriotism remains a strong as ever –no doubt a reaction to being overrun by Mancunians since moving north in the ’70s.

It’s a bit different out here in Spain, of course, where there seem to be more Taffs than smoke-sodden bars.

Donna's mentor Ray Thomas with Tom Jones

‘’I am,’’ piped up a curly-haired mixed-race guy about my own age. ‘’Where are you from, then?’’

 

‘’Well,’’ I mused, trying to condense my complicated  roots into a single sentence. ‘I lived in Barry, Cardiff and Caerphilly as a child but I started my working life in Pontypridd.’’

‘’I’m from near Ponty myself,’’ said the dark stranger. ‘’Who did you know there, then?’’

 ‘’Well, I knew Tom Jones – or Tommy Woodward as he was then,’’ I grinned. ''In fact, I gave him his first-ever newspaper write-ups.''

 ‘’We all knew him,’’ quipped my new soulmate, to laughter from all corners. ‘’Who else did you know?’’

My mind immediately conjured up memories of the larger-than-life journalist who was my boss and mentor at the Pontypridd Observer. As a school leaver approaching my 17th birthday, he and his wife took me in as a lodger – and over my three years as a trainee reporter they effectively became my surrogate mum and dad.

‘’Well, my landlord was a guy called Ray Thomas, who was chief reporter of the local newspaper…’’ I ventured, expecting a blank reaction.

 Instead, my new acquaintance all but turned white with shock. I could see the name had a special significance to him, too.

In a flash, everything came together in my head and I realised in amazement just who this guy was.

 A cold chill went down my spine. ‘‘You’re not, uhh you're not....uhh Doug, are you?’’ I said hesitantly,

As forgotten images of a dusky teenager flashed before my eyes, I blurted out: ''My God, you're not Doug, are you?''

He nodded slowly - and the six other people realised this was a special moment for the both of us. ''We all came out in goose pimples,'' one of those who witnessed the liaison told me later.

The two youngsters Ray and his wife Margaret had mentored in those dim and distant times had been brought face to face in the most unlikely circumstances. And Doug realised who I was at virtually the  same moment.

I had heard so much about him during my time in Pontypridd. He had moved to Stoke-on-Trent with his family when he was eight, but the Thomases never stopped talking about him. You’d have thought he was their own son and they perpetually chatted about wanting him and me to meet because we had so much in common.

It never happened – but I did see many photos of him, most of them taken on his occasional visits back to Pontypridd when I never seemed to be around.

And he confided: ‘‘They were special people in my life and I was so jealous of you because you were living with them and I wasn’t.’’

Doug had been born to a young local woman in the nearby village of Abercynon, Ray’s birthplace, near the end of World War Two. His father was a black American GI who promptly disappeared back to the States and Doug was brought up in his mother’s all-white family, the only mixed-race child for miles around.

His childhood had naturally been difficult and he got into so many scrapes that it was almost inevitable that he would later become a professional boxer, among other things.

Because of his unusual background, and his bond with Ray and Margaret, Doug’s name had remained vivid in my mind for well over four decades. But the chance of us ever meeting was remote in the extreme – even in the more likely surroundings of Pontypridd or Stoke.

As you might guess, Doug and his wife Kath, who also knew of me from her husband’s dim and distant past, are now among my best friends.

PALS FOR LIFE: Doug, wife Kath and Donna (right)

Indeed, Doug regularly jokes to me: ‘‘This is a friendship that is NEVER going to end.’’

 

He and Kath have been holidaying in the southern Costa Blanca for many years and cynics might say our meeting was pure coincidence. But although I am not a religious person, I am convinced the meeting was orchestrated from above.

You see, Margaret passed away just months before I finally met Doug. And I truly believe that she and arch-joker Ray – who died in the ’70s - set it all up from their new celestial home.

There is nothing they would have wanted more than for Doug and me to meet and now their wish has finally been granted.

Was our freak encounter merely a bizarre coincidence? Or did Ray and Margaret set it up from the grave? That’s for you to decide.



Like 0        Published at 20:53   Comments (3)


Spanish twins fear Manx United flying fur factor
12 October 2015

I DREAMT last night that I was a lost moggy wandering among the street cats of inner-city Manchester.

I was the only one with a tail.

These guys weren’t Manx cats. They were Manc brats. Street fighters with a bit of Irish in them, like comic legend Korky the Kat.

They spent most of the dream  singing Mewchester United songs dedicated to their troll model, Catty from Cork. I think he's the sourpuss-in-boots that all Mew-nited fans idolise. The one that humans call  Roy Keane.

The only subject the dream cats wanted to miaow about was furball.

I heard so much of it that the pun cushion that used to be my brain is under threat from a cat’s chorus of chants about Alex Fur-gone's son, or whatever his name is.

Personally, I prefer to remember the days when Denis Paw was top cat around those parts.

Anyway, my street-cat dream (more of a nightmare really) was triggered by a desire to spend more time with my family in the UK.

I have to decide whether to take Tom and Dick, my twin black gatos, with me to England – or try to find a new  home for them here In Spain.

Tom and Dick: Would they settle in England? 

They have no language problems here, but Keith, my cousin's moggy in Manchester, reckons they’ll need to be wary of the locals.

Otherwise they might find themselves missing an ear or an eye. Or walking on anything between one and three legs.

Keith’s local street-cat clan call themselves the Kitty Kitty Gang Bang.  They are certainly no Pads Army - apart, perhaps from scabby tabby  Fur-Gus, who has all his limbs but is perpetually legless.

Keith (who happens to be a girl), says things have changed for the worse for local felines over the last 30 years.

She recalls: “In my great-great-great-grandparents’ day, the Manc cat community had some fur-midable role models. I mean, who can forget the likes of Moggy Thatcher and Geoffrey Boycat?’’

These days the only ‘greeting’ the Kitty Gang give to strangers consists of a two-word description of a hair ball.

All I can say is that it sounds very much like 'Fur cough'.

The real nightmare begins if that smattering of local lingo does not have the desired effect. The smattering becomes a battering and the ears and legs start to come off.

That clinches it. The boys are staying in Spain.



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