He trained in Spain, earned his first ITF junior points in Canada and won a doubles title in the Caribbean. Those are among the adventures Winnipegger Cole Lacap had in a tennis-packed 2015.
Lacap is seeing the payoff from his decision to join a top tennis academy in Spain in October of 2014. He was at 4 Slam Tennis in Castelldefels (about a 30 minute drive from Barcelona) for about six weeks that fall before playing a couple of tournaments in Florida. Lacap, 17, then returned to the academy in January and stayed until the end of June.
“Being in that environment, in that place where it’s all tennis, tennis, tennis, it was a good experience,” said Lacap.
The head coach at 4 Slam Tennis is Galo Blanco, former coach of Canadian star Milos Raonic. About 12 junior boys and 12 junior girls are part of the academy in addition to professional players.
Lacap hit balls frequently with the pros at 4 Slam Tennis, including Spaniard Marcel Granollers (No. 19 in the world in 2012) and Fabio Fognini from Italy. Fognini was the man who sent Rafael Nadal home from the 2015 U.S. Open in a five-set thriller.
In a typical day at the academy, players wake up at 7 a.m., have breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and warm-up as a group at 8:15 a.m. That’s followed by a four-hour training session from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: players go with either a coach or a fitness trainer for the first two hours and then switch for the next two hours. Lunch and siesta is from 12:30 to 3 p.m. before another training session from 3 to 5 p.m. (either tennis or fitness for the first hour and then switch for the last hour). The afternoon portion of fitness is an hour of endurance, such as swimming or running along the beach.
“The first two weeks I was dead after every day,” Lacap said. “I was like, ‘why I am here?’ But after a while you start to get used to the routine.”
When players at the academy are in tournaments, they train for about four hours after a match.
“The way they do it in Spain is you work continuously like a dog,” said Lacap. “They drill you all the time.”
The Spanish way of training is clearly working. Spain has more players in the ATP top 100 than any other country (14 as of mid-October, 2015)
“If you see David Ferrer and Nadal, they’re amazingly fit and they’re right from Spain,” Lacap noted.
Lacap’s time at 4 Slam Tennis reaped some big rewards this past summer. He collected his first International Tennis Federation (ITF) ranking points by winning two main draw U18 matches in Edmonton after winning three matches in the qualifying round.
In August, Lacap won the U18 boys’ doubles title in St. Lucia with Californian Jack Pulliam. The partnership was formed just prior to the tournament.
“It was sort of a last minute type of thing,” said Lacap. “We barely knew each other.” The pair then went to St. Vincent and the Grenadines where they lost in the U18 boys’ doubles semifinals.
Locals got a chance to see Lacap up close later in August: he marched to the Manitoba Open singles final at Kildonan Tennis Club (losing 6-3, 6-3 to Stephen Dubienski) and then competed in the qualifying round of the National Bank Futures event at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club.
Lacap is noted for his power game, and he showed off his skills in the very first ball he struck. It came in the parking lot of the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex. His brothers Sean and Chad would play tennis after school and his dad Homer dragged the four-year-old out that day.
“He gave me this Wilson red and white racquet, junior size, and he fed me a ball and I hit him in the face with the ball,” Lacap recalls. “He wasn’t too happy but I remember that very vividly.”
Lacap was coached by his dad growing up, and in Sean and Chad he had two of the best players in the province to practice with. His mom Romilyn is also an avid tennis player.
“I was just always around tennis, especially the Sargent Park area,” said Lacap.
He remembers the first time he beat Sean in a drop-feed game up to 10 points when he was about 11.
“When I first beat Sean in an up-to-10 I was so happy,” Lacap remembered. “It was on court one right here (Winnipeg Winter Club).”
Lacap is also an accomplished volleyball player. He captured Manitoba titles in the U13, U14 and U15 categories with the club team WinMan and was named provincial MVP in his U14 and U15 years.
But now Lacap’s focus is on his tennis. The Maples Collegiate student, who does his schooling online and will graduate in 2016, is going back to 4 Slam Tennis in Spain for about six weeks this fall before playing tournaments in the Dominican Republic and Florida in December.
“I would love to go pro,” said Lacap. “But we’ll see how far this year takes me with the schooling and with the tennis. But that is my main focus, to go pro.”