Maples resident Sabrina Alano has big expectations for her upcoming 11th birthday — coming home from La belle province with a nice, big piece of gold.
Alano, who makes the jump from 10 on Aug. 28, will be one of three young tennis stars who will represent the Prairies at the U12 Outdoor Rogers Junior Nationals in Mont-Tremblant, Que. from Aug. 20 to 25.
"I’m so excited," said Alano, the only Manitoban named to the team alongside two players from Saskatchewan.
Alano’s excitement and expectations aren’t overblown — she’s currently the No. 1 seed in her Girls U12 division in the province, and No. 3 in Girls U14. Nationally, she’s ranked No. 13 heading into the tournament.
That’s not surprising, her mother, Coleen, says.
Finding a passion for the sport from her parents own love of the game, Alano has been swinging a racket since she was four years old, along with her twin sister. Her interest in the sport wavered, however, and Sabrina didn’t become serious with training until she was eight, Coleen said. She began practising with her father, who played varsity when he was in college.
"We noticed Sabrina’s eagerness to become a better player and so we supported her by getting pro coaches to train her further until we saw her potential," said Coleen.
Sabrina began playing tournaments in March 2011, shortly before her family immigrated to Canada from the Philippines. Arriving in Winnipeg that September, Alano quickly found homes at both the Taylor Tennis Club and Winter Club. She’s played in 16 local tournaments since — including four appearances at the Tuxedo Junior Open and three at the Manitoba Junior Open — winning nine of them.
The national championship will be Alano’s first tournament outside of Manitoba. Alano is focused on the challenge and hopes to come back from the experience a better tennis player.
"I’ll get to play many people that I don’t know," she said.
"In Winnipeg, you play many of the same people."
Tennis has been great in Sabrina’s development, Coleen said.
"It develops not only her physical health, but her emotional aspects, shows her sportsmanship," she said.
"Having that goal in her life, which is very important for kids to have. She dreams like becoming one of the stars like (Maria) Sharapova. We’re supporting her as much as possible."