FOCUSED: Brookwater’s Baseline Tennis head coach Dave Gore and teen sensation Kanika Jayathilake. 

Picture: Rob Williams
FOCUSED: Brookwater’s Baseline Tennis head coach Dave Gore and teen sensation Kanika Jayathilake. Picture: Rob Williams

Ferrari goal driving Brookwater ace to do the work

WHETHER it's by working in medicine or through tennis, Brookwater-based athlete Kanika Jayathilake will get his hands on the shiny Ferrari he so covets.

At four-years-old Jayathilake watched as his parents enjoyed a social game of tennis. When a Ferrari drove up the street catching his attention, he asked his father how he could come to own such a sleek machine. To which his father replied 'try tennis'.

"And that's exactly how it started," Jayathilake said.

"It seems too good to be true but it is."

That desire for something tangible has grown into so much more.

Tennis is now his passion. While the Brisbane Grammar year 10 student and 1st IV representative prioritises his studies and has targeted medicine as a back-up plan, there is nothing he would rather do for a career than play the game he loves alongside joint heroes Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

"It has just been tennis," he said.

"It's all up to you. You make the choices. It's not a team thing. You get to determine whether or not you get the win. It's just enjoyable. Sometimes you have hard times. It's competitive. You experience a lot. It's very mental. When I walk on I give 100 per cent. I have bad days but I make sure that I put in as much effort as possible."

Jayathilake knows what he wants and what he has to do to get there. Importantly, however, the grounded 15-year-old is also a realist. Very few make it as career sportspeople and given the enormous chasm which separates the best from the rest, even less reach the heights of the ATP and graft a living playing tennis but that fact does not deter Jayathilake. It emboldens him and motivates him to work harder and be better.

"There's not a lot of players within Australia that can make it to pro standard, even if they are good at a young age," he said.

"It's just the transition they take from junior to senior that makes a difference. It's a big step from being a quality junior in Australia to being pro. It's like going from school to uni. It's a big difference."

Currently ranked ninth in Australia for his age, 234 in open men's and 1282 in the world for under-18, Jayathilake intends to lead GPS premiership favourites BGS to the crown before contesting as many tournaments as possible in hope of climbing the standings. While he credits training with the top class coaches at his school's state-of-the-art facilities and under the supportive Dave Gore at Brookwater's Baseline Tennis with lifting his game immeasurably, he continues to search for gains off the court.

Training six times a week, his routine was not interrupted significantly by coronavirus but he has recently started practising mindfulness and visualisation regularly.

"I'm trying to improve my mentality at this point," he said.

"I talk to myself and hype myself up just to give me the confidence I'll need for the next day. Just before bed I tell myself something, just to keep going no matter what. I injured my back last year and this year as well, so I'm really just trying to stay focused and make sure it doesn't happen again. I used to not really be focused and I took things for granted but now I've realised how important tennis is I try not to waste any session or opportunity on court. The reason I don't put all of my eggs in one basket is there is a very low chance that it's possible for me or anyone my age to become a pro, so that self-talk at night ensures I really believe I can become pro even though there is a very low chance.

"I'm not always focusing just on the court but on off court stuff as well - how I cool down, stretch and improve my fitness. I'm asking coaches if they can give me any other tips and I didn't always do that. I thought it was all about hitting on court. I just realised that it's not and if I want to go pro and get above everybody else, I really have to do something that they don't do."


Tennis player Kanika Jayathilake watches a volley closely onto his racquet
Tennis player Kanika Jayathilake watches a volley closely onto his racquet