WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington has some rising tennis stars serving up some major competition to other kids around the South.
Nine-year-old Augie Ballantine has made some big strides in his short career clocking 17 championship titles in his age group. Augie’s journey to the tennis court began much like many, by watching the professionals.
“I was watching the pros on TV and that inspired me to hit on the garage a little bit, and then I got a coach with Lenny and he has worked with me a lot and he has been a big help,” said Ballantine.
Coach Lenny Simpson took Augie from slamming a garage door to slamming opponents. Simpson says Augie is a quiet kids but when he hits the court he will do what it takes to win.
“He’s one of those kids that will claw you and scratch you and will hang in there and do what he needs to do to walk off that court with a W and he does it the right way,” said Simpson.
Ten-year-old Peyton Philemon is a Phenom herself; she is currently number one in the South in her age group.
“I started playing when I was seven, and I had a friend who introduced me and I loved the sport, said Philemon. “It’s just fun to play against other people and learn their game and learn new skills, I like to see that I can get better and compete against the good girls.”
Simpson said that competitive spirit is what sets Peyton apart from other players her age.
“Peyton is a great girl. And the way that Peyton has improved and has come along, we don’t even talk about winning, or losing, we talk about competing,” said Simpson.
Both of these young competitors have big dreams when it comes to tennis.
“I’d like to play professionally and try to do my best,” said Ballantine.
“I want to be number one in the world because I watch all the people who are number one and I just see how they’ve gone so far, and that’s what I want to do,” said Philemon.
Simpson said Augie and Peyton both help out with his One Love Tennis program. A program that gives kids, who may not have access to the game of tennis, a chance to learn the game.
Simpson said about 2% of athletes in any sport have the opportunity to compete professionally. He said Augie and Peyton have that potential and while the sky is the limit, he is confident they will be able to earn scholarships and play in college.