EXCLUSIVE: Maryborough ace Braund on representing Australia
TENNIS: It would be easy for Alec Braund to take his time in the green and gold for granted, but the Maryborough teen is utilising every bit of his "limitless potential" at the ITF World Junior Finals this week.
Braund, Victorian Amor Jasika and and South Australian Edward Winter are representing Australia at the Czech Republic tournament, an under-14s teams competition at which former World No.1 tennis stars Lleyton Hewitt, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokavic have featured.
For 14-year-old Braund, it is a long way away from the Bruce Rayner Pro Tennis courts in Maryborough, but he made sure to pack the lethal serve and blistering forehand he perfected at the home of Heritage City tennis.
"Alec's an exciting player with a big serve, a big forehand, and he has unlimited potential," Australia's team captain, Tom George said.
"He was part of the Aussie team in Thailand (at the qualifiers) and he did a great job there. We've been here for the past month to prepare and get used to the clay courts."
Wins against Switzerland and number three seed Canada ensured the Australians qualified for the quarter finals, but George, who serves as Tennis Australia's WA National Performance Manager, said it was the manner in which the juniors competed that made him most proud.
"Canada were one of the top-seeded teams but the boys showed that true Australian grit, that determination," George said. "All the games went to three sets each and they really displayed their talent."
It was that drive and determination that not only ensured Australia qualified for the quarter finals, but also won fans during the team's month-long preparation.
Braund and his teammates played tournaments the Netherlands and Germany before the Junior Finals, at which the top 16 teams compete to be crowned world champion.
The Maryborough ace reached the doubles quarter finals at the Netherlands and the doubles semi finals in Germany, and also picked up a number of singles wins on the way.
The Dutch success was of particular note, as Australia received the Fair Play Award, the honour bestowed upon the team that shows good sportsmanship on and off court.
"This is a new experience for me, the new surfaces and the new competition," Braund told the Chronicle.
"The level of competition is pretty high, and the weather has been 50-50 so far.
"This has been a good experience. You get to travel to new places and see a lot of things others might not get to."
Braund, who previously only featured in the doubles victory against Switzerland on the second day of competition, took on the top-seeded French in their final Group A game on Wednesday night (AEST).
He expected a tough game, and that is exactly what he got.
The Maryborough teen was beaten straight sets by France's Luca van Assche, who has dropped just one set in three singles games so far.
Braund took the disappointment of his 6-2 6-3 loss and turned that into a three-set triumph in the doubles.
He and Jasika dropped the first set against Sean Cuenin and Etienne Marty 2-6 before they stormed back to win the next two sets 7-6 10-7.
France's overall 2-1 win in the tie means Australia finished second in its group.
Australia took on the might of the United States on Thursday night (AEST).
The second seed Americans won 78.3% of its sets in the three pool games, and is yet to drop a rubber in their first nine games of the competition.