Thursday, 18 July 2013

Tennis prodigy Alice Hopkins fights back to the big time after severe illness

Former British junior tennis champion Alice Hopkins, 19, from Water Orton, is training hard with newly-promoted Warwickshire, preparing for next week’s County Week, Group 1  (22nd to 26th July at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne) after being sidelined for 14 months by a debilitating illness. Alice, a former child tennis prodigy who was talent-spotted at just 3 years old at Coleshill Tennis Club and went on to become a junior international, made her senior County debut in Group 1 at Eastbourne in 2011 when the injury-hit county was relegated but she was too ill to play last year as they bounced straight back to the big time by winning Group 2. Alice had to abandon a lucrative tennis scholarship at Gardener Webb University in North Carolina 18 months ago, after just one term, when a severe wheat allergy left her emaciated and exhausted, despite being named Freshman of the Year trophy after winning 20 out of 22 matches.

“When I arrived home and saw the look of horror on my dad’s face” she recalls, “and my old jeans just fell off me, I realised something was badly wrong. There were hurtful rumours that I was anorexic - but I've always eaten like a horse!”

After months of rest plus iron tablets and mounds of steak, she is now fully fit, studying advertising and marketing at Buckinghamshire New University and turning out for Coleshill Tennis Club in the Birmingham League.

“I was gutted to be too weak to play County Week last year” she said, “so when I was selected this time, I shrieked ‘Yessss! I’m going, come what may!’ We’ve got a strong team this time, including my friend Hannah James who was a brilliant junior with me on the British squad at Bisham Abbey. I’d love to play doubles with her as we play the same aggressive serve-volley game that works well on grass. We’re determined to stay up and knock the big name counties like Surrey off their perch.”

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