Nino Severino: Meeting French Connection boss was a turning point in my life
PUBLISHED: 11:48 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:48 27 March 2019
In his latest column, Nino Severino discusses a key moment in his life which started him on his coaching journey to the Olympics.
It’s been a fantastic week for global tennis with the Miami Open in full swing, but also an incredible week for Ipswich tennis, seeing us celebrating a great performance by one of our Elena Baltacha Foundation supported players, Saul Hindmarch.
Saul is coached by Richard Daynes, Head of Tennis at Framlingham College, and Mike Lunt, EB Foundation Head of Player Support, who were both at the LTA National Training Centre, near Wimbledon to see him make the Final of the U12’s Winter National Finals.
He met a player from Dukes Meadows Tennis, Kai-Luca Ampaw, in what was by all accounts an incredible match, and he played extremely well, representing Ipswich Sports Club Tennis Academy, unfortunately eventually losing 4-6, 4-6.
Kai trains at Dukes Meadows Tennis, which is owned by one of the giants of the fashion industry, a man I know extremely well called Stephen Marks – he owns a company you may have heard of called French Connection.
It’s quite strange how two areas of my life have crossed this week – an Elena Baltacha Foundation supported player and a Stephen Marks’ talent playing each other at a major junior tournament.
My travels through sport and with sport has taken me to all four corners of the world, a very colourful tapestry of positive experiences.
Everyone has life-changing moments, and one of my biggest was when a representative of Stephen’s approached me in Spain while I was presenting.
At the time, Elena was training there as Britain’s top tennis player with her coach Jo Durie, ex-British No.1 and once the fifth best player in the world during her time on the WTA tour.
As soon as I finished my presentation, a member of the French Connection Tennis academy came straight over and asked if I would deliver a training session for all their players who were at the World Famous La Manga complex at the time.
I delivered the day after, the players reacted very well, all expressing that they felt the session had real benefit. After the session was over, I was asked to go and meet the senior coaching staff and I was quite shocked to see Jo standing there, a player I watched as a young man on the BBC as she represented Great Britain at Wimbledon.
A few weeks later, a senior member of staff called me and offered me a permanent position on the coaching team – this offer would totally change everything, and send my life path on a mind-blowing trajectory that would end with me becoming an Olympic and British No.1 tennis coach.
It was at my first official training session I met the gaffer, Mr Marks, and that was the start of an incredible relationship with an incredible man.
After I lost Elena to cancer in 2014, Stephen offered me a position at Dukes Meadows, his superb tennis and golf complex in Chiswick, and that very supportive act helped me during a very tough period of my life.
I very recently visited Dukes to meet with him and some of the other staff members, and during that visit there was a treat in store.
Tim Henman, the ex-British No.1, who reached a world ranking of four, is a very close friend of Stephen’s, and he was there leading a session for all the young Dukes Meadows tennis players.
It was great to watch Tim at work. This was the first time I had ever seen him coach, he was outstanding, and it was fantastic to see the affect he had on these young players.
During the same visit I met with Ollie Fawkes, who joined the Dukes Meadows team as Head of Strength and Conditioning in May 2018, following a two-year full-time role with WTA pro, Elina Svitolina, who reached a career high ranking of third in the world.
I had a very long conversation with Ollie as we had an awful lot in common – spending 10 years on the WTA Tour betwen us – and it’s fair to say we shared a few very interesting stories.
I’ve been very lucky in my life, and meeting Stephen was an incredible blessing. I look forward to the next time our paths cross!