***Melika LeBlanc, the 15-year-old bilingual player from Moncton, was the sole representative of New Brunswick at the recent U16 Nationals in Montreal. While players, parents and coaches worry about their training environment, Melika’s predicament gives a different meaning to the need of a better infrastructure in Canada. Moncton is slated to open a new year-round center this year.
Melika is a Grade 10 student, and has been training with Mark White since she started playing tennis.***
ONcourt: Melika, this is your fourth National Championship. Does it still have that special meaning for you?
Melika LeBlanc: Yes it does, because I always go to the Nationals and try to compete better than I did the last time I went.
ONcourt: How do you feel about your performance at the Nationals?
Melika LeBlanc: I felt like I did okay, considering the amount of tennis I play. But I could’ve done better.
ONcourt: How do you prepare for the Nationals, when you live in a place with no indoor courts?
Melika LeBlanc: I try to work on my fitness, I try to play in a gym. I play volleyball that helps my hand-eye coordination, and hockey that helps my movement.
ONcourt: How often on the average do you play weekly on courts?
Melika LeBlanc: From November to May, I play about 0 to 2.5 hours weekly. When the outdoors courts open, I play more.
ONcourt: How hard is it to come to the Nationals with that type of preparation?
Melika LeBlanc: It’s really hard, because you come here and the other players are way more prepared. They also play a lot more, have really good coaching, and have more experience, so it’s easier for them to succeed.
ONcourt: What are your aspirations as a player?
Melika LeBlanc: I would like to get a tennis scholarship to a university in the States.
ONcourt: When and how did you start playing?
Melika LeBlanc: I started playing when I was 8. I started, because my parents brought me to the courts to play for fun, and I really liked it.
ONcourt: What do you love most about the sport?
Melika LeBlanc: I love that you have to compete really hard. When you play singles, you are the only one playing, so you have to be at your best all the time. I also love that it is a mental game, and you have to strategize.
ONcourt: Thank you Melika.