Tennis

Belfast tennis ace Freddy Murray believes the University of North Carolina can help him emulate his icon Rafael Nadal

Freddy Murray says swapping Ireland for Asheville may help him follow in tennis hero Rafael Nadal’s footsteps.

The 19-year-old ace from Belfast has enrolled in a tennis program at the University of North Carolina, where he will spend the next four years developing in a challenging new environment.

Murray has idolized Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, for as long as he can remember and hopes his daring leap across the pond will catapult him up the international rankings.

“I would say Nadal was my hero, especially as a kid,” said Murray, who benefits from financial support from Boost Drinks.

“I had the same rackets as Nadal, I bought all his clothes and I watched all his matches.

“My dream is to play the Davis Cup with Ireland. I would also love to be in the ATP rankings and climb up the rankings as far as possible.

“I’m used to being away from home and being alone, but I’ve never been away from home that long.

“But you don’t really have a lot of time to sit and think for yourself, it’s just a great experience and adventure.”

SportsAid supports more than 1,000 athletes each year, in the early stages of their career, by providing them with a financial award to help with training and competition costs.

These athletes are Britain’s brightest sporting prospects, nominated to SportsAid by the national governing bodies of over 60 sports based on their established criteria.

The Boost funding helped Murray play in his first senior tournament earlier in the year, which took place in Romania over the summer.

The event featured players from the top 300 in the world as the field battled it out for prize money and the right to be considered one of the best prospects in the sport.

But Murray is no stranger to big time, having first represented Ireland at the age of 12 and now competing against the best players on the American college circuit.

He added: “I thought the United States was the best option to take.

“I know a couple of people who have been here before and they all said it was great so I thought it was the right thing to do.

“I liked the coach, the guys on the team seemed nice and the tennis program looked good, everything here is brilliant.”

Meanwhile, Nadal ended his ATP Finals campaign on a positive note by snapping a four-match losing streak with a win over Casper Ruud.

There was nothing to play for in terms of the tournament, with Nadal already eliminated following losses to Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Ruud guaranteed to win the group to advance to the semifinals.

But apart from the extra ranking points and prize money, Nadal’s 7-5 7-5 win also gives him something to hold on to as he thinks about preparing for the upcoming season.

Boost Drinks provides young athletes with financial support, recognition and personal development opportunities through its partnership with SportsAid. Each athlete receives a prize of £1,000 which contributes towards the costs of travel, accommodation and equipment; For more information visit www.boostdrinks.com

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