Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Channeling Nadal

This appears on

Channeling Nadal
by rick olivares

Bea De Ocampo is a 15-year old who goes to the Assumption College and looks like she’d rather hang out in a mall with friends or sip a frap in some coffee shop.

Instead, she’s bronzed by the sun from chasing tennis balls with a zest more than anyone playing Pokemon Go. 

Bea, who is currently ranked #28 by Philta (only because she doesn’t play enough matches due to school work) loves the game with a passion. Her style of play frustrates opponents because she runs after what seem like winners then returns then with powerful strokes that belie her thin frame. Hers is a defensive style that makes her difficult to beat.

And now after a training camp at Mallorca, Spain, at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar — you guessed it, her tennis idol is none other than that King of Clay — she is even more aggressive in her game.

With over 70 young tennis hopefuls at the RNA, some of who are the world’s best and brightest, it is easy to get intimidated for a young girl from a small island nation in Southeast Asia. But no. De Ocampo levelled up.

“At first, I focused on my own game but the level of play and talent by the other girls forced me to raise my game,” shared De Ocampo. The Rafa Nadal Academy opened its doors only this past June. Located in the scenic and idyllic island of Mallorca where the Spanish star hails from, it is massive and impressive for its 26 tennis courts, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, mini-football pitch, its dorm and hotel, fitness centre, and academic facility that is overseen by the American International School. Aside from Nadal, it is run by his uncle Toni, former Spain Davis Cup captain Carlos Costa, and coaches Marc Gorriz and Joel Figueroas; the latter who previously worked a lengthy stint with the US Tennis Association. 

British tennis star Andy Murray trained there prior to his run to the gold medal in the recently concluded Rio De Janeiro Olympics. India’s rising star Indian rising star Adil Kalyanpur also trains there as well.

Amidst all the talent and ultra-competitive atmosphere, Bea raised the level of her game and it paid handsome dividends as she made it to the finals of the Golden Ball Tournament, the post-camp competition for participants. De Ocampo finished second. She was likewise invited to compete in the Toni Nadal Tournament that was a welcome experience for the young Filipina.

“I think that the coaches at the RNA are very passionate about their jobs,” said Bea’s father, Darren who is a commercial pilot. “Lots of coaches are but I think the difference from what I have seen is they are very accomplished in their own field and really attend to their teaching with a passion.”

The elder De Ocampo related how this talented female American player was loafing and coasting when one of the coaches berated her for her lackadaisical attitude. “If she thought that the camp was like a vacation, she had it wrong,” recalled Bea’s father. The girl buckled down to work and her game radically improved.

Every day, during a 15-minute break in the two two-hour daily sessions, Bea and her fellow participants got to watch Rafa train. “Just watching him train at the hottest time of the day was very impressive,” thought Bea who later got to personally meet and talk to the tennis star.

Nadal isn’t there to lollygag. He isn’t there to train under safe and comfortable conditions. Training under the unforgiving Mediterranean sun will help him perform. So in better climes, air-conditioned ones, he will perform better. 

“You hear people always say that practice makes perfect, but watching Rafa go about his training camp with his game focus is inspiring,” added Bea.

It has been a few weeks since the De Ocampo family returned to Manila. Right now, they are looking into considering sending her abroad (if possible) for tennis and schooling. 

The experience at the RNA hasn’t faded one bit from her memory.

“It was one of the best experiences in my young life,” she beamed. 

Hopefully, she can parlay this into a tennis career that will help herself but also flag and country.

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