November 11, 2021, by brzbs1

Scholar In Focus: Noppawan Lertcheewakarn

Noppawan Lertcheewakarn may be a name familiar to some Tennis fans, as in 2009, Noppawan won the Girls’ Singles and Doubles Wimbledon titles in the same year. Since her victories at SW19, Noppawan continued to play professional tennis before stepping away from a life of touring a few years ago to study. Now a student at the University of Nottingham, we are delighted to have Noppawan as one of our sport scholars. We recently met to discuss her career so far, how much she’s enjoying being a part of the #GreenandGold, as well as how she’s hoping to continue to inspire others.


It’s great to meet with you Noppawan. There’s no better place than to start from the beginning, when did you start playing tennis and why?

I started playing when I was four years old, as both of my parents played sports with my Dad playing Badminton and my Mum playing Tennis. What’s interesting is that they actually met on a Tennis Court! My sister started to play tennis too and getting to see her playing made me really want to play, so my Dad became my first coach. He wasn’t a professional coach and he taught me by memorising what he had learned from other coaches, so at that point it was all about having fun and enjoying tennis as a family experience. We played other sports too, but my Dad and I really enjoyed tennis so it’s what I ended up pursuing.


What was it about Tennis that made you pursue it further?

Firstly, the sport is really challenging because you have to be ready both physically and mentally. However, it’s also a really fun sport and the best thing about tennis is that you don’t have a tied match – there has to be a winner! This means that there is no second chances and on the court there is no coaching to help you so you have to focus fully to achieve your goals, which is a great challenge.


Winning Wimbledon as a Junior must have been incredible, what was that experience like?

Winning Junior Wimbledon in 2009, both in singles and doubles, is my best moment in sport. Playing on Court 1 before Serena Williams meant that there was quite a crowd waiting to watch her, but it was incredible to compete and win in that environment! I also finished the year as World Number 1 at the end of 2009 which I was very proud of. These experiences are why I think I can really help others at the university and pass on what I learnt from my past accomplishments. I remember Elena Baltacha helping me on the professional tour, giving me the confidence and belief to qualify for the US Open as well as win the Dubai Open, so I want to try and do something similar by helping others here at UoN to improve.


How often do you train and play now you’re at the university, and how do you manage to balance this with your academic commitments?

I train mostly Monday, Tuesday and Friday, with Wednesday being match days. I have four tennis sessions a week, two fitness sessions and one conditioning/recovery sessions a week whilst on campus, but I also can have matches or tournaments at the weekend too so it’s pretty busy! This is actually my first time studying overseas so it’s hard because English isn’t my first language and coming to a top academic university is difficult, but the university have so many people helping me. There are always people making sure that I’m okay and reach out to help, because when I first arrived I was worried that I would be alone but it was totally different to what I expected. I’m studying a postgraduate degree in International Business, based in the business school. This is totally different to what I studied for my undergraduate degree but again the university have been so helpful to me.


How does this experience compare to when you were playing professionally?

I stopped playing professionally five years ago and right now I enjoy tennis much more because whilst it’s a competitive environment, there is a lot less pressure. As a professional, it can be lonely competing and travelling by yourself, but here it’s a lot more fun. On the tour it would be tennis court, hotel, travel, repeat, but here I have been able to travel and explore as well as play tennis. Being a part of the #GreenandGold with everyone supporting you and being a part of the tennis club is great as we all get along really well. Doing pre-season, which really helped me recover my conditioning and speed, and having a good start to the BUCS season as a team has been huge. Recently, we played on a carpet court which I had never done before so there are still new experiences too!

Our head coach has also asked me to use my past experience to help others in the team which has been really good. To see their improvement through helping out with the programme in this way has been really overwhelming as I’m so happy to help anyway I can, and for our coach to trust me with this responsibility is also really special.


Why did you choose to come to the University of Nottingham, and what have you enjoyed about being at the university so far?

Whilst on the professional tour, I used to play at the Nottingham Open every year so I’ve been coming to Nottingham and playing at the Tennis Centre since I was eighteen. I really liked the facilities and the atmosphere so when I had the chance to study and compete here for the university, it was like a dream come true! I’ve really enjoyed my time here because it’s been really fun to get to know other scholars, support them, and have them support me because the vibe is really good here – it’s like we are a family in some ways. The studying has been challenging but it’s really good to be here.


What advice would you give to students who are thinking about trying tennis at university?

Tennis is a really fun sport and Emma Raducanu just won the US Open so Tennis is becoming even more popular in the UK. It’s not an easy sport and can be a challenge, but we have 400 members across different levels who get along really well, which is really good! We have huge facilities at the Tennis Centre with both indoor and outdoor courts, as well as the fitness suites at the David Ross Sports Centre to help club members with physical training.


Thank you for speaking with us Noppawan and we wish you and the Tennis club all the best this year!


Noppawan working out in our HPZ


As well as a reputation for academic excellence, we have a history of sporting success and are passionate about supporting promising athletes during their time at the University of Nottingham. To find out more about our Sports Scholarship, please click here.

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