Groths to link up with Hopper in Turkey
January 29, 2010
Late last year, soon after Australian husband-and-wife team Jarmila and Sam Groth lost their individual $150,000 scholarships at the Australian Institute of Sport, they received an offer they could not refuse. It was from Gavin Hopper, now involved with a new tennis academy in Turkey. Within months, the Groths, too, will be based in Istanbul.
Jarmila and Sam, both 22, no longer qualify for an AIS Pro Tour program adjusted to focus on players aged 16-20, and so must pay their own way on the international circuit. Both are returning from injury, Jarmila's ranking having dipped from her career peak of 57th to 123rd, and Sam's 60 spots to 280 during his period sidelined with an elbow problem.
Hopper is an experienced coach and trainer, whose clients before he served a 27-month jail term for indecently assaulting a 14-year-old student while a teacher at Wesley College in the 1980s, included Mark Philippoussis and Monica Seles. He also founded an academy on the Gold Coast with former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash. More recently, he has been working for the Turkish Tennis Federation and living with his family in Istanbul for several years.
''The offer seems almost too good to be true, but everything seems the way it is,'' Jarmila said yesterday. ''We're not sure of all the details, we have to go there and see for ourselves, but right now it seems OK.
''It should be good, there's nothing we can lose about trying to go there and Gavin is a great coach and a great fitness trainer. And we don't have a better offer anyway, so we'll give it a go. He said 'I know you are not in the AIS any more and I would like to help you if you are interested'. He was very keen to work with us, and it was the best option from a financial point of view, so it looks like we're going to go with that. Tennis Australia think it's a good offer and they are supporting us whatever we do.''
Hopper will travel with the pair where possible, and the Groths have been told they will be provided with coaching, training and sports medicine assistance, have access to the academy's facilities and hitting partners and receive help with accommodation and expenses.
So if they have no intention of switching nationalities, what's in it for Turkey? Jarmila sees their value as promotional, and to help set an example for the fledgling academy's aspiring professionals.
Jarmila, a native Slovakian who was granted Australian citizenship in November, will work with Hopper at the upcoming Challenger events in Burnie, Mildura and Sydney as she regains full fitness after ankle surgery last year. Overlooked for next week's Fed Cup tie against Spain despite being eligible for the first time, the national No. 4 hopes to earn selection later in the year.