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Resilience serves up success for young Coquitlam tennis champion

Coquitlam's Owen Nguyen is Canada's top U14 tennis player. He got there with a lot of hard work and resilience.
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Canada's top U14 tennis player, Owen Nguyen, is coached by his dad, Dale, at the public courts at the Coquitlam Tennis Club.

When Owen Nguyen stepped onto an unfamiliar surface at Carrefour Multisports in Laval, Que., to compete in the Fischer Junior Nationals U14 outdoor tennis championships in September, he wasn’t fazed.

After all, the Grade 9 student at Gleneagle Secondary School in Coquitlam cut his tennis teeth on the public courts at the Coquitlam Tennis Club at Town Centre Park, scrambling for practice times amongst the golden agers and weekend warriors, putting in the hours three or four days a week even  in twilight gloom and daytime drizzle.

So playing for a national title on a clay court, Nguyen said, would just have to be another adjustment he’d have to make.

He did just that, defeating Alberta’s Adam Faragcao in the final in straight sets, 7-5, 7-5, to take his first national championship.

Nguyen’s confident it won’t be his last.

Having been coached by his dad, Dale, since he was seven years old, he can now tap into additional resources from Tennis Canada, including high-performance coaches at a covered facility in North Vancouver where it’s always warm and dry and court times are guaranteed. 

Already, Nguyen said, he’s noticing improvements in his game; he’s hitting the ball harder, putting more movement on his volleys.

Still, he added, it’s his passion for the sport and his dedication to hard work that got him this far and will likely propel him forward on the court. That, and the inspiration he draws from seeing increasing numbers of young Canadian players make their mark internationally, like 18-year-old Layla Fernandez who reached the women’s final of the U.S. Open last September and Bianca Andreescu, who won the tournament in 2019.

“If they can do it, I can do it,” Nguyen said. “I have to put 110 per cent into every day, every shot.”

Dale Nguyen said his son’s commitment is the product of his humble, working class immersion in the sport, where not even court time can be taken for granted.

“It teaches him that nothing is free in life,” said Dale, who read manuals and watched videos online so he could guide Owen after introducing him to tennis when he was five as an activity they could do together. “Every player has the shots, but you have to have the confidence in what you can do to be successful.”

Owen Nguyen said the lessons his dad has taught him in tennis, and life, stay with him at the baseline.

“You learn how to compete and fight,” he said. 

As a national champion, Nguyen now has his sights set on international competitions, with tournaments in the United States on the family’s winter agenda as their budget and schedules allow. He said he doesn’t know what that will be like, but then again he’d never played on clay prior to winning in Laval.

“Anything is possible,” he said.