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South Africa’s Best!

The fascinating story of how South Africa’s best tennis academy – Real Athletes Tennis Academy started!

Baseline Racquets is proud to partner and work closely with the Real Athletes Tennis Academy, founded and run by head coach – Earl Grainger.  Earl now boasts an incredible academy that is filled with some of South Africa’s top tennis players and of course our very own Baseline Warriors. 

Find out more about RATA as Earl tells us about his journey in his own words. 

RATA’s story begins way back in 1980 when for two US dollars you got one SA rand. During that very first year away from home, I was awarded a tennis scholarship at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville Tennessee in the USA. It was the time when kids were aspiring to be the very next Jimmy Connor, Arthur Ashe, Bjorn Borg, Martina Navratilova or Chris Evert. I came from an extremely sporty family where my mother was a national swimmer and my father a world cup soccer player. That is how my competitive nature kicked in, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life on the tennis court, and the fact that it was already in my blood, it was inevitable that my dream to be a renowned coach, training and nurturing top tennis players would become a reality. This was my path from as early as I could hold a racquet in my hand at 6 years old. With the support and guidance of my parents, I was able to achieve my goals and ambitions, and begin my life training in the USA, the land of opportunity. The USA was a the place where you could grow and become just about anything you wanted to. So it was there that after four years I eventually completed my studies and began to map out my future plans, choosing my route on the court and my contemporaries and teammates chose theirs – to name a few: Paul Annacone and Mike De Palmer Junior, both of whom went on with their aspiring tennis careers (Annacone number 9 in the world and number 1 in the world in doubles, and Mike Junior ranked 32 in the world in singles. Annacone became Pete Sampras and Roger Federer’s coach and Mike Junior coached Boris Becker). I had a dream and a goal, to get as much international experience from as many highly talented and likeminded top coaches out there. That is how I took my first steps, learning from successful and respected coaches at a variety of clubs and academies throughout the USA . I knew I was now on my way to one day owning, directing, and driving my own academy.

During my time abroad I worked for and alongside many of the great American coaches, learning and perfecting hour by hour, day by day a multitude of styles, techniques, and strategies. Most importantly it was knowing and learning how and when to directly pinpoint and channel factors such as the endurance aspect, continued work ethic and physical movement paired with the mental attributes of a very specific and committed player and then bringing all those factors together to produce a truly great tennis player.
Knowing and learning from the onset that the basics of the game were all very much similar wherever you trained was obvious, but the turning point in a player’s progress and how fast they climbed that ladder to the top was all based on the guidance of the person leading from the front. If that was and is in place from the very beginning, like a baby taking its first steps, then the success and final product was an absolute no-brainer. I knew full well, that all these differentiating factors had to be implemented correctly and effectively into each and every player from the very beginning, and then finally and very carefully and strategically brought together to produce that player of excellence both on and off the court, always making sure that I imparted all my years of knowledge and personal experience into the different game styles and that unique individual player. This was the important factor, creating a player using his or her own genetic makeup paired with my professional and individualised coaching techniques.
Every single player is unique, all on a continued journey of ultimately bettering their game and taking in pertinent information at their own pace and in different ways, each with their own differentiating characteristics, from the way they walked, the way they talked to the way they moved – they are all very different to each other. Remembering always that no one player is ever the same as another, some are more energetic than others, some need special attention in certain areas of weakness, some are aggressive, and some softer. There is no one-size fits all approach, the correct way I have learned is what works personally for each individual player.

What I set out to create 18 years ago was a supportive team atmosphere in an individual sport. I wanted to have the right team of coaches besides me in my daily structures and drill plans, mentoring and guiding young players to be the best possible versions of themselves based on their unique ways and varying styles of teaching overseen by myself, always in accordance with The Real Athletes Tennis Academy way. I, together with my highly appointed team of entrusted Tennis Pros, have built and perfected through years of dealing with young athletes on and off the court.
My road to success and being able to produce top players is not just about what you learn on a court and standing beside a teacher in the early years developing your learned skills into a player or a coach; it’s about when you find yourself with a mountain in front of you, it’s not about standing still and thinking you have lost the game, it’s about quick thinking on your feet and instantly recognising the fact that you can always think ahead in a tight situation. So, it’s there and then that you don’t give up, you look at it from a different angle and you either go over that mountain staring you in the face, or you find a way to go around it , but you will not give up when the game gets tough. It’s about manoeuvring, strategy and entrusting yourself to make a decision that will get you that winning trophy that you have worked so hard for. Win or lose that game, someone who doesn’t give up is by my teachings always a winner.
We all have faced mountains in our lives, for me, many personally in my private life and as a Coach, from the very beginning after starting up again with nothing to running many successful clubs and international Academy programmes and business ventures. I picked up the pieces and with one court in a private house with one pupil, through a friend of my brothers I was entrusted to run a small club in South Africa upon my return from the States. I then grew from strength to strength and pupil by pupil I began to build my legacy, thanks to the generosity and loyalty of a great friend who saw the ability and the big picture ahead, a friend and a colleague who today is a partner in the academy.
Looking back now I am grateful for the opportunities in my life, and the people who opened doors for me along the way. So, together with my appointed Coaches besides me, and the academy’s continued yearly success at nationals and IT junior events, and the growth of the academy in all tennis-related areas. I am proud to say we not only produce the very best players through our strength in coaching knowledge both emotionally and physically but also intellectually through our very own highly successful home-schooling program, at international levels, opening doors to future stars at international universities and producing successful future players.
Ultimately it’s not only how you play the game on the court, it’s also how you play the  game off the court that defines you as a player and as a person that achieves what they initially set out to do. Both in the game of tennis and in the game of life, with respect and clarity and with a defined goal in mind. It’s not just about holding up that trophy in the end, it’s every single little step that you have taken that has bought you to where you are standing now and remembering how you got there – through commitment, effort, trust, and always “keeping your eye on the yellow ball up ahead”. And certainly to believe in yourself and your coach.
As said by Marina Navratilova: “Just go out there and do what you have to do”.

And, as said by me, “Do it properly”.

In a period of 18 years, we started out with three coaches including myself and six kids. We have now evolved
where currently the academy has 10 coaches, 2 personal trainers, a movement specialist,  a sports psychologist , and a tournament and travelling co-ordinator. We boast 400 plus kids, and have won every tournament South Africa has to offer including professional events. We teach at three primary schools and have 4 venues. The importance of teamwork is what is emphasised.

Without our very experienced, passionate, and loyal group of coaches who have been with the academy as a player or coach from the onset of the academy, this academy would not be where it is today.

From the bottom of my heart I thank each and every coach, parent, and player who has had a role in the development of the academy .

We hope we will continue to grow into Africa’s finest academy.

Earl Grainger 

RATA's Baseline Warriors

Dylan Salton

Alec Beckley

Erin McKenzie

Tayla Wilmot

Claire Jaramba

Runé Van Wyk

Connor Kruger