IT WILL be make or break for national tennis player Mohd Aiman Abdullah next year.
It will be the 17-year-old's last year competing on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior circuit but he has a lot of work to do until his ambition of turning professional becomes reality.
Ranked 2054 on the ITF Juniors, Aiman's last tournament was the ITF World Junior Tennis Championships Grade 3 in Kuching, Sarawak in October where he fell to Thailand's Chanon Varapongsittikul in the second round.
Though he beat the highly rated Chang Tun Jie of Malaysia 6-3, 6-0 at the Sarawak Lawn Tennis Association in the first round, his display in the next round did nothing to impress the national coach.
"Aiman did not listen to instructions and let Chanon play his game,"said Fan Po Hoa when met with Aiman on Tuesday.
"He was not hungry enough and he did not have the correct mental attitude, I guess he was still on cloud nine after beating Chang - who has been a Sarawak state player for the past two years," Fan added.
"Deep inside, I did not believe I could win," agreed Aiman.
It is this kind of mentality that Aiman will have to change if he wants to fulfill Brunei's hopes of creating its first professional player.
Groomed for success, Aiman will no doubt realise that he will let many people down if he does not take the next step.
A promising name on the local scene, Aiman was Brunei's sole recipient of a Commonwealth Youth Program scholarship to Chandigarh, India in 2007.
Studying at St Stephen's School in the morning, he trained at the prestigious Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association in the evening.
Since he returned from India this year, he has been on the court nearly non-stop since May's Arafura Games in Darwin, Australia - where he won silver in the men's open singles and bronze in the doubles.
Competing in several ITF Junior events after Arafura, he has been accompanied on the road by Fan, who he credits most of his success to.
"During the last six months he has definitely improved quite a bit after the Arafura Games, and thanks to participation in ITF Juniors, Aiman has got a world ranking and we have successfully achieved our mid-term goal of a junior world ranking," said Fan.
"But whether he can go from there or not depends on a systematic approach to future development.
"He has to fuse elements like skill and coordination, mental training, physical conditioning, nutrition and scheduling..
"He must put in an intelligent full-time effort and he will get a full-time result. He has to eat, sleep and breathe tennis. It will be vice versa if he puts in a part-time effort," he added.
In other words, Aiman needs to have a mindset of a professional.
Aiman took the criticism in his stride and readily described how he could improve.
"I need to work harder on court to achieve my performance goals like better power delivery on service with accuracy in placement," said Aiman.
"It is also important that I remember and execute my gameplan. Things like strategy, court-craft and selection of shots during training are also important, and I need to improve my physical conditioning," he added.
Though next year's calendar is not yet established, Aiman will be putting a lot of work in the gym in December.
He said that this was to bring his physical conditioning to a higher level in order to perform better on court with more powerful shot execution, and it will also help with preventing injuries - of which Aiman has been relatively free from.
Aiman's plan for next year depends on funds coming in and Fan said he is working hard talking to various sponsors, and there it goes without saying that the Department of Youth and Sports and the Brunei Darussalam Tennis Association will have to do their part too.
"I want to participate more in ITF Junior events and secure a higher world ranking. I can't be satisfied with just getting a world ranking, the mid-term goal has changed, I need to improve my ranking to get three-digits (below 1000) now," said Aiman.
"I have to work hard on achieving my performance goals, world ranking points then will come naturally.
"If my game is mature enough coach said he will expose me to the Men's Future circuit, and hopefully I can get a couple of wild-cards from the organising committees of the events. That is my long-term goal," he added.
It is a big dream, but anything is possible with hunger and belief.
Courtesy from Brunei Times