When the words tennis and sisters are mentioned in the same sentence, it usually ends up also including Venus and Serena. The American superstars have been global icons for the last couple of decades. However, here in UAE, two sisters are making a name for themselves. Filipino duo Bea and Renee Acena are part of the Tennis 360 academy in Dubai and taking the sport by storm. GYS spoke to them both to find out about their career so far and plans for the future.
Tell us about your background in the sport. What age were you introduced to the sport? How did you get involved? Do you have any role models?
Renee: I started to play tennis at 7 years old, and I was introduced into the sport by friends from school. It started as a once a week activity for eight of us, but after around three months, only my sister Bea and I remained and we continued to play tennis because we enjoyed it so much. About a year after we started, we started competing in tournaments and also trained more frequently. By working hard, I have been able to join and win a lot of tournaments in the UAE as well as in the Philippines. My role model in tennis is Caroline Wozniacki because she is very persistent and a fighter inside the court.
Bea: I got into tennis when I was 8 years old through friends of my sister. They invited us to start playing tennis once a week and I enjoyed it so much. After 3 or 4 months, my sister and I were the only ones left playing and we continued until we started to play competitive tennis after one year. I trained more and worked harder in order to be able to compete against the best players. I never looked back ever since and have been competing locally and internationally. My role model in tennis is Viktoria Azarenka. I like her fighting spirit and the never say die attitude.
What has been your biggest achievements in the sport to date?
Renee: Probably my biggest achievement so far would be when I got my first ITF points in Vietnam and thus got a World Junior Tennis Ranking. It was something that I dreamed of achieving and I got my ITF points right in my very first attempt. I have also won a lot of tournaments across the UAE and also did very well in tough competitions in the Philippines.
Ben: I have had a few really exciting successes recently and it's hard to pick one out. One would be reaching a career high of 762 in the ITF world junior rankings. I hope to improve on that during the course of the year. Another would be winning the tournament that brought me to Paris and watch the French Open live for three straight years.
Being ranked number 1 in the Philippines for Under 14 girls and Under 18 girls was also a big achievement for me. Lastly, I also consider reaching the semi-finals of the ATF Asian Championships in Qatar as a major achievement, which got me ranked into the top 40 of under 14 girls all over Asia.
What does the future hold?
Renee: As far as the future is concerned, I would like to improve on my international ranking as well as my UTR, in order for me to have a better chance of getting a college scholarship in the US through my tennis skills. That has been the goal of mine and I hope to achieve it in a couple of years.
Bea: My main goal is to get a college scholarship in the US through my tennis skills. That is the reason why I work hard every day and try to improve my tennis as best as I can. Within this year, the plan is to also get higher in the ITF rankings and improve my UTR.
Comments from the Tennis 360 coach Nuno Cafe:
Renee: Renee enjoys the fight on court. Her strong competitive spirit allows her to frustrate and defeat opponent. At times she can be emotional on court which shows me she cares about what she is doing.
Renee has some very clear objectives – she knows she loves tennis and wants to do well, but she enjoys her education and is striving to excel in that arena as well. It is a pleasure to see her push herself to achieve success in both these sides of her life.
Bea: Bea loves all aspects of tennis, like training, watching tennis and helping as a volunteer at events.
I have seen Bea grow over the years from a very shy girl, scared to speak to someone who is more independent – able to travel overseas (sometimes alone) and achieving great success. Her confidence through her hard work and dedication is now starting to bring positive results on an international level.