Coach Muratoglu has his eye on a prodigy – Ksenia Efremova

Coach Muratoglu has his eye on a prodigy - Ksenia Efremova

Ksyusha was not even three years old when her mother Yulia first saw the girl on the court. She was practicing her strokes, but Efremova Sr. realized that her daughter was destined to become a star.

Even then, mom and first coach was amazed by the accuracy of her movements: the balls flew over the net and Ksyusha moved perfectly. “I decided it was time to work with her, because there was so much passion in her eyes!” – Efremova shared with CNN.

Through the efforts of local coaches, they prepared the girl for a more serious test – the Patrick Muratoglu Academy. Efremova was nine when she arrived in Monte Carlo from Moscow for the test. The coach saw her potential right away. Traditionally, selection weeks were held there for young stars to flock from all over the world and show off their skills. They are tested on their physical, tennis, and mental abilities, and the coaching staff observes and decides whether or not they want to help the talent. Their role is to unlock a tennis player’s potential.

Xyusha was given access to a coach, a fitness coach and a medical team. Then she was also given an elite support system. “Xenia is an incredible athlete,” notes Muratoglu. – You’ll notice it even if you just look at her social media. She can twine, she can dance, she can do anything.”

The harmony in her movements is a result of her mom’s reverent attitude toward overall exercise. Her daughter’s main sport as a child was always gymnastics. She often worked out for three hours a day, devoting only 60 minutes to tennis. In her opinion, parents should not kill a child’s desire to work only on the tennis court.

“Little Xenia only played tennis three times a week, and I didn’t force her. I worked with her in other ways: there were dance lessons, swimming lessons, English, break dancing. She was everywhere.”

So her all-around development was reflected in her game, too: her movement on the court, her combination play and her hitting power. “Her technique is extremely clean. She’s aggressive. She has a great competitive spirit,” Muratoglu said.

At the academy, kids are taught not only how to hit the ball and move properly, but they also take care of the mental workload. Ksyusha was also asked to talk about the pressure and nervous state and how it affects the game – children are often stressed before a match. Athletes have to admit the tension and explain the cause and effect in words. Only then we can work on the problem.

“I always say that in a tennis match there is not one opponent playing against you, but two. You have to overpower yourself, and then you can win,” Muratoglu is convinced.

Now Efremova is 13 years old, but she has already gained recognition in the professional world, having signed sponsorship agreements with Nike and Yonex. And she is very special at the Academy: she presents a cake and wishes Happy Birthday to Fabio Fognini, sparring with Jérémy Chardy, takes pictures with Daniil Medvedev, Amanda Anisimova, Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic.

She also strengthened her position in the RTT under-14 rankings with her victories. In two years, she dropped 135 places and is now No. 10. Under the tutelage of the experts Fabien Cosmao, Kevin Bumlil and tennis agency IMG, she took the tournament TE (Tennis Europe) in Sweden, and in March double in the French Saint-Genevieve-de-Bois. In the singles final Ksenia was stronger than another Russian, Marta-Maria Makarova, and in pair with her they defeated the Turkish-Slovakian duo. In April the girl won her first trophy on clay in the Portuguese town of Maia.

It was in Scandinavia during the tournament that the girl learned about the death of her father – her mother did not want to tell about his fate until the end of the competition. Former amateur tennis player Alexei Efremov fought lymphoma for two years.

“It was very hard. Xenia was competing, but I had to let her know,” Yulia recalls. – Of course, she cried. She was shocked. She asked me, “Maybe you can wake him up.” I replied, “No, Xenia. It is impossible. He is already in heaven.” After that I told her that maybe we should interrupt the tournament and go home.

But Xenia flatly refused and dedicated the title to her dad after her victory: “In memory of my father, who passed away during this tournament in Sweden,” the girl wrote on social media.

The first titles, her mother and coaches are sure, are a start. The girl already has character and a desire to fight to the last ball. “Xenia always expects to win,” Muratoglu shared. – There is no other choice for her but to win trophies.”

Efremova Sr. says she sees that determination in her daughter every day during practice, and she believes she will one day be the best tennis player in the world. “Sometimes when I’m angry and I don’t like something during practice, I ask her, ‘What do you want out of tennis?’ And she answers me, ‘I want to be a legend.’ It’s not enough for her to be number one in the world.”