WHEELERS Hill tennis player Stephen Fotakis knows something of the highs and lows of sporting success.
Fotakis, at one stage ranked in the top two juniors in Australia, is trying to rebuild a stalled career.
Currently, the 20 year old is ranked 230 in Australia and playing pennant for Springvale North Tennis Club.
The baseliner with a big serve had an national ranking of 80 at his peak. But for the past two years he has given away the game.
“I thought I didn’t want to play much any more. I’d lost my love for the game,” he said.
“I decided to live a bit of the good life … girls, parties, drinks.”
This year, he decided to change his focus to tennis.
In May, he made a promising comeback at an Australian rankings event at Melbourne Park.
As the 12th seed, Fotakis was runner-up in the final to ninth-seeded Aidan Fitzgerald 7-5 2-6 6-1.
But a recent knee injury has slowed his resurgence, though an MRI scan revealed no visible damage.
He has set his sights on playing semi-professional events and on gaining a professional ranking.
One difficulty is juggling work commitments with dedicating himself to tennis.
“You can’t work full-time per se. You’ve got to balance it out, maybe work 4-6 hours a day and not at all on weekends.
“You can’t afford to work and can’t afford not to.”
Fotakis said with few emerging stars on local courts, Tennis Australia – one of the richest tennis federations – should fund more junior players to expand the sport.
“It’s very tough to succeed. You need some help and Tennis Australia have not been the best there.
“You see all the other countries funding juniors by the dozens.”
He also feels that Tennis Australia is too quick to let go of promising juniors such as himself.
“I was one of the best junior players in Australia. I had a few losses and Tennis Australia dumped me. It was a real let-down.”
He admits he may have upset some of Tennis Australia’s development coaches with his attitude along the way.
“I did as they said. When I was tired, though, I’d let them know – that was their excuse, but other kids did plenty worse.”
Hitting back: Stephen Fotakis is trying to rekindle his once-promising career. Picture: Melissa Banks