Venus and Serena Williams were created for the sole purpose of becoming tennis champions. That is common knowledge. Dad Richard already had three step children with his wife Oracene and his own kids from another marriage.
He introduced all of them to tennis but when he realised none had the talent nor inclination to be champs he begged Oracene to have two more. She complied and 20 years later after Richard oversaw their development, Venus and Serena were multi-millionaire world beaters. That piece of human engineering certainly worked.
Cayman may have its own little tennis marvel in Edward Bodden. The 11-year-old Prospect schoolboy has been playing since he could walk. Tennis nut dad Edward Sr even has a tennis court beside his house. He already had six daughters all involved in tennis and was in seventh heaven when baby Edward arrived.
‘I could have played football but I rather tennis,’ says Edward Jr. ‘I love it. I’m sure I can make it. I’m prepared to do the hard training and dedicated. My school doesn’t really support tennis but I come here every out of school so I get a lot of practice. My father brings me down and he’s always here supporting me.’
Mostly trained at the tennis club in South Sound by Eduardo Torres, his colleague Rob Seward has had a lot of input too.
A great student of the game, Edward knows who he wants to emulate. ‘Federer’s okay but Pete Sampras is my favourite, I’ve even got one of his rackets. I train mostly with Eduardo but Rob supports me a lot too. I’ve improved a lot. I used to come here when there was another coach but it was the same stuff and I got bored.
‘Then when I came back it was all these new coaches. The first time I played they said I had to go to a higher group and they kept on putting me in a higher group until I started learning.’
Bodden was at the world renowned Nick Bollettieri academy in Florida for a week in August and had a wicked time. The Williams sisters were briefly coached there and alumni include Sampras, Andre Agassi, Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharpova.
‘My mum and dad paid for it. I learned how to conform my forehand, I got a better backhand and my serve is like awesome. It was tough. We were working from seven in the morning till five in the evening. It was a struggle but really fun and I enjoyed it.’
Torres believes Bodden has the ability and drive to go all the way. He sees the same sort of career path as Panav Jha has taken. Jha, 15, is in a tennis scholarship in Canada and looks set to be a champion pro.
‘Edward’s very dedicated, that’s why I picked him out of all the kids I have,’ says Torres. ‘He’s the same age as Panav when I got him and I think if we put the time into Edward he can actually play international tennis.
‘It’s not just ability, it’s the passion. You can see it in him. That’s what makes me believe in him. Remember, it’s the heat of playing here and all the sacrifice. Edward’s got it. There’s a lot of steps you have to take to make it, such as get off the island and go to college in Canada, or the US until you reach one point. I’m going to take the same steps with him as I did with Panav and I hope I can eventually get him up there.’
Dad Edward Carson Bodden still ‘knocks the ball a little bit’. He is pleased with his son’s progress. ‘I have a tennis court at home so when Edward was in a walker I used to have him on the court with me and my wife and older daughter, so he’s come along from there. I’ve seen a lot of improvement and he’s trying hard. He stopped for a while, wanted to try some other sports like soccer and cricket – he’s very good at that too. I never forced him back. I just kept playing with the guys at my home. He saw that and got back into it.’
The little prodigy is certain that tennis is his life’s calling no matter what level of player he becomes. ‘If I don’t make it as a tennis player I’ll coach and if I don’t make that I’ll support tennis for the rest of my life.’