Despite his young age, US-trained Albert ‘AJ’ Lim Jr. is determined to win in his international debut at the 25th Mitsubishi Lancer Junior International Tennis championship slated March 18-23 at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, Manila.
Reputedly the country’s premier player in the 14-under, Lim is the only Filipino qualified in the main draw in the annual competition for juniors which features 52 boys and 48 girls from 24 countries.
The 14-year-old Lim arrived last Saturday from Florida, USA where he is enrolled since December last year at the L’ Academie de Tennis (LAT) School under American coach Ollie Townsend and US-based Filipino coach Patrick Carpio.
”My target for this tournament is to become champion,” Lim said in a press conference at the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) on Monday.
Lim is long-time protegee of former Rep. Romeo Jalosjos and studied at TAPF under the stewardship of Manny Tecson before he enrolled at L’ Academie to further harness his skills and enrich experience.
“AJ is pretty good and talented player. He possesses the qualities of a good tennis player like determination, define goal and play with pride,” said Townsend.
Townsend, whose school has produced 66 junior world junior champions, said that although Lim is enrolled at LAT without the government fund, the young promising tennis player can play for the national team.
”We have agreed that if ever AJ will compete for the Philippines, he will skip other tournaments,” Townsend said.
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Ritchie Garcia expressed appreciation to Townsend for supporting Filipino athletes like AJ, the first Filipino netter to enroll at LAT.
”We extend our appreciation to LAT for supporting Filipino athletes,” Garcia said.
Garcia said, initially, the PSC gave P2 million financial assistance for AJ’s training abroad but LAT returned the check.
Lim got the attention of American coaches when he reached the finals in the Orange Bowl two years ago where he earned the distinction of being the first Filipino to reach the finals of the event.
He lost to eventual champion and top seed Artem Dubrivny of Russia but not after disposing No. 2 Alexander del Corral of Argentina, No. 5 Thomas Etcheverry, and No. 9 Noah Macarome of the US.
Lim is currently ranked No. 2 in the world in the 14-under and 175th in the International Tennis Federation in the 18-under.
He is now the highest Filipino player in the boys’ category, surpassing countryman and former holder of the top spot, Jurence Mendoza.
He was also the youngest player in the Philippine tennis history at 14 to reach the semis in the men’s division in the 2013 Olivarez-Philta Open tennis. Among his victims then were Davis Cup campaigners Rolando Ruel and Elbert Anasta.
Like his idol, Swiss tennis star Roger Federer, the 5-foot-7 Lim is dreaming of playing in the US Open and other big international events and eventually become grandslam champion. PNA