8-year-old ace earns a spot on Rogers Cup Centre Court

Tuesday, Aug 6

It’s hard to pull 8-year-old Vincent Moots off the tennis court.

After escorting Ukrainian star Dayana Yastremska to her first-round match against Johanna Konta Monday morning as part of Tennis Canada’s Little Aces program, the eight-year-old found his way to the mini courts at the Rogers Cup Kids Zone to hit a few balls.

“Time to go,” his parents said. The soon to be third-grader continued to play, seemingly oblivious of their soft beckons. They weren’t being very aggressive. They love to watch him as much as he loves to play.

“30 seconds,” yelled the Kids Zone attendant. He hit a few more balls with a fellow young shaggy haired opponent before dropping the racquet and running to parents Alex and Claudia Moots standing court side. Phew. They’ve been saved by the bell.

Now in its second year, the Little Aces recruitment program awards grant money to seven and eight-year-olds as part of their development. The money goes to instructors, allowing kids a few extra hours of coaching over the course of a year. Vincent’s raw skills were enough to get him into the program and a few extra perks like getting to do the walk-on of a tennis player at the 2019 Rogers Cup Tournament.

“His grandfather wanted to get him into tennis when he was four or so,” dad Alex recalled. “And it worked out,” Vincent chimed in. “Yes,” laughed his father. “It worked out.”

In his age category, Vincent is now ranked in the top three in Ontario.

“It started off as recreational stuff, just one hour a week,” said Alex. “Every six months he wanted to play a little bit more. Two days a week turned into three days, then four days and now he’s going four to five times a week.”

Since he’s been old enough, the family has been coming to the Rogers Cup at the Aviva Centre and sometimes travel to the tournament in Montreal. They will be making the commute to Quebec for the men’s tournament in a couple of days to give Vincent a chance to watch his favourite player, one of the world’s best in action.

“He loves Nadal,” said his mother Claudia in her slight Romanian accent. Vincent’s face lit up at her words. His love for the 18-time grand slam champion is real.

Claudia however hopes to hang around the Aviva Centre in Toronto Monday long enough to catch her favourite player on the practice courts.

“I’m just a bit of a Simona Halep fan,” laughed Claudia who immigrated to Canada in 1994. “There are a lot of Romanians here at the Cup for being such a small community. I hear them as we’ve been walking around. Everybody wants to see her. I don’t know what it is.”

Alex thinks he might have the answer. “She’s got a bit of an underdog story and Everybody loves an underdog,” he says. “She’s somebody that people can associate with. They want to see a new challenger come up and be successful. That’s important for people.”

As for Vincent, the jury is still out on whether his Romanian genes will help him to Halep’s level of success in the future.

“You’re Romanian and Canadian like Bianca Andreescu. It’s in the blood,” Claudia told her son half joking.

“We’ve got a ways to go to actually see if you got that in you but perhaps,” Alex said, being careful to manage expectations. Clearly not one for ego boosts anyway, Vincent gave a simple shrug.

For now, Alex who also plays just loves enjoying some fun daddy and son time on the court. As for mom’s Romanian tennis blood, she says her role is more on the sidelines.

“No I don’t play, but I go to most of his training and all his competitions,” she laughed. “I’m just the best cheerleader.”

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