Hyder Jawad meets two Midland teenagers who are determined to reach the top...
Andrew Fitzpatrick is shaven-headed, hits his fore-hand early with exaggerated top-spin and plays with an unnatural intensity. There are no surprises whom he describes as his inspiration.
"Andre Agassi is my favourite player," Fitzpatrick says. "If I could be like anybody, it would be Agassi."
As a dream, it is not unique - most men would like to be Agassi, win eight grand-slam titles and marry Stefi Graf - but Fitzpatrick is more serious than most about fulfilling his sporting fantasies.
He has it in the eyes. "I put a lot of pressure on myself, perhaps too much, because I am so desperate to succeed," Fitzpatrick says.
"I try for perfection, not because I think I can be perfect, but because I want to be as good as I can. You don't reach the top on talent alone. Attitude is everything."
That attitude is evident as Fitzpatrick, aged 16, from Solihull, thrashes balls about with controlled aggression underneath the December sunshine here on the clay courts of La Manga. The balls scream for mercy, but he is expressionless.
At court-side, John Lloyd, the former British No 1, shouts encouragement and advice and, occasionally, stricture. Fitzpatrick listens, occasionally nods in acceptance, but never takes his eye off the ball. It is a metaphor for his short life.
In the industry, that is called "being focused". Out-side the industry, one might call it an obsession. Whatever, Fitzpatrick is travelling the world, playing minor tournaments, in pursuit of a dream: to become a successful player.
"I am prepared to make sacrifices and give it everything I've got," Fitzpatrick says. "That means eating properly, sleeping properly, avoiding things that will make it tougher for me and making sure I practise enough and learn from those who have been there.
"It is not easy and involves a lot of hard work. I find I am travelling and it is definitely harder to sustain friendships and even get girlfriends. It can be tough, although you learn different life skills. I am happy because I am doing something I believe in."
If Fitzpatrick makes the grade, the sacrifices will be worthwhile. It is not the money that motivates him, it is the glory. Whenever he sees Agassi winning a tournament, he puts himself into the scene and wonders what it would be like to pick up a trophy and absorb the applause of 10,000 people.
Had his formative years been different, Fitzpatrick might have played football instead. His father, Paul, used to play for Tottenham Hotspur and the impressionable Andrew initially wanted to do the same thing.
"I juggled football and tennis for a time," Fitzpatrick says.
"I played for Aston Villa until the under-12 level and then I decided to give tennis my all. I have no regrets. You have to decide what is best for you and give that everything you have got. The commitment required is great but the potential rewards make it worthwhile."
Fitzpatrick seems to exemplify the changing attitudes in British tennis. No longer is there an emphasis on the grass-court game. The best youngsters now spend much of the year practising on hard courts and clay courts.
He prefers hard courts, particularly those at Flushing Meadows. When the US Open begins in August, Fitzpatrick watches as much of it as he can.
In some ways it is surprising, given that he spent much of his time playing at Edgbaston Priory, for Warwickshire, where grass courts are plentiful.
Deep down, Fitzpatrick did not feel he had the weapons necessary for success on grass - the big first serve, the crisp volleying - but he proved himself wrong by winning one tournament on grass and posting some of his best results on the natural surface.
But, like Agassi, he is more at home on the unnatural surfaces; the ones that are consistent and easy to predict.
"At Queen's, we spend a lot of our time on the indoor hard courts, where the ball bounces high. I like that. It ensures that I can be at my best. I knock-up a lot with Greg Rusedski [British No 2]. He is a really nice guy; helpful and encouraging."
Fitzpatrick is less complimentary of the British No 1, Tim Henman, who is a member of Queen's. "I've not really seen much of Tim Henman. I certainly have nothing in common with him. I prefer Greg, who has really helped me."
While Fitzpatrick is bashing balls about under the sunshine, another would-be superstar is pumping iron in the gym. He is Maniel Baines, also 16, who hails from Coventry.
Baines is less shy than Fitzpatrick but equally focused. It seems that these lads go into tennis as different people but quickly turn into microcosms of their heroes.
Baines admires Roger Federer and, inevitably, regards himself as "an all-round player with potential on every surface".
Having enjoyed the hospitality at Queen's for some months, Baines likes to fly around the world and compete at tournaments. He sees as much of his family as he would like and, like Fitzgerald, has a one-tracked mind where tennis is concerned.
"It is essential to keep focused," Baines says. "You have to do what you believe in and do it to the best of your ability. We have coaches around us all day who help us reach our potential.
"Sure, we have to make sacrifices, but it is not really tough because I love tennis. Travelling the world in pursuit of success is good.
"I decided years ago that I wanted to be good on every surface. It gives you more options. I think it is important."
It is a tall order but an admirable one. Even Pete Sampras, regarded as the best player of all time, had a weakness on clay, while Federer has still not come close to winning the French Open. Not for a generation, when Bjorn Borg was in a class of his own, has a man won Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year.
If Fitzpatrick refuses to make predictions about his own fate, or even set goals, Baines is a different proposition. "I would like to be in the world's top 800 by the time I am 18," he says.
"I will work hard to make sure I get there. If I can do better than that, that is a bonus. But the top 800 is the goal."
It is a realistic goal, if not a sexy one. After all Rafael Nadal of Spain was in the world's top ten at the age of 17. But, then, Nadal is a freak. Teenagers tend to play like teenagers. It is the natural order of things.
The problem, of course, is that a life outside the world's top 200 is not glamorous or lucrative. Alex Bogdanovic, once the British No 3, has spent much of his time there, but he exudes nothing of the style and panache that separates the superstars from the journeyman professionals.
But much can change between the ages of 16 and 18. That is why Fitzpatrick and Baines are working hard, even when they know that the narrow road leads to success and the broad road leads to failure.
At the moment, they both have more future than past, but these are the two most important years of their lives.
Being nurtured by the Lawn Tennis Association at Queen's Club in London is a good preparation. It immediately makes Fitzpatrick and Baines two of the best youngsters in the country.
But, as John Crowther, the LTA chief executive, said, "there comes a time when it is all up to the player". ..SUPL: