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Volume 91, Issue 25

Thursday, October 9, 1997

about face


Dunnett holds a world of talent

©Ian Ross/Gazette
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT... . Frosh Jamie Dunnett has spent his first month at Western eluding bad luck and stealing away wins from unsuspecting opponents.

By David Vernon

Gazette Staff

The development of young tennis athletes in Canada is currently at an all- time high – something which has not gone unnoticed by American schools.

Competing with the likes of Virginia Tech and Michigan State, Western was able to grab the attention of a young and talented tennis phenomenon named Jamie Dunnett over the off-season.

Dunnett started playing tennis at the age of nine, while most other children were still fighting over Big Wheels and G.I. Joe action figures. His parents, who work in Canadian international diplomacy, moved to far-off Bangladesh to work with the Canadian Embassy in the foreign-aid department. There he was able to play at a local health club, hitting balls with some of the staff and other kids. "Part of the reason why my game began where it did was because of the weather," Dunnett said on the birth of his tennis game. "It was so hot and sunny in Bangladesh, that playing tennis everyday was far from impossible."

Dunnett returned to Canada at the age of 12 and immediately involved with the Canadian youth tennis program. He played in the Canadian Nationals four times and was consistently a force in the Ontario Tennis Association, climbing the ranks to as high as ninth in the country in his division. "Most of my success in tennis came from my consistent ground-strokes and fundamentals on the court," Dunnett commented on his development.

After tearing up the competition in Canada, he was on the move again, this time to exotic jungles and mystifying landscapes in Africa. Travelling again for Dunnett put a lot of strain on his tennis game, but he always seemed to make time to play, wherever he was on the planet.

Situated in Zimbabwe, he was fortunate enough to be able to practice with world-ranked Byron Black and gain even more experience at the young age of 16. By this time, Dunnett was playing tennis in some of the most distinct areas of the globe. "I remember playing in Africa on courts that weren't clay or grass but a mixture of sand and molasses," he recalled. Playing in neighbouring nations such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya, Dunnett was acquiring valuable lessons, not only in tennis but in life as well.

His story, which spans 18 years, three continents, six countries, at least 10 racquets and about 3,290 balls, finally brings us back to London, Ontario, Canada. "We are so lucky to have Jamie this year," Western's head coach Anthony Glavanic said. "He brings a level of experience to the team that not even the veterans have."

Dunnett's success as a 'Stang has not come without hard work and a lot of pressure, but Glavanic feels Dunnett's strongest attribute is his mental game. Playing like a seasoned veteran, Jamie has been successful in his rookie year with a 4-2 singles record, even with the team struggling for the play off berth. "I don't even think of the pressure," Dunnett said. "I know that it's there, I just accept it and go out on the court and try to play good, disciplined tennis."

As the tennis team searches for answers on how to equate winning with this season, Jamie Dunnett has displayed excellent promise on the court and Glavanic is confident in the development of his new go-to star.

Natural talent, world-class training and a sharp mind have been the key ingredients to the development of an individual who is the combination of an aggressive grinder mixed with the poise and composure of an experienced veteran. Coach Glavanic said Dunnett mirrors former pro player Jimmy Connors in many such ways.

However, after travelling the globe gathering knowledge of life and tennis, it appears Dunnett is finally set to settle down and make a home for himself – the future of this rookie Mustang appears to be set.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997