TAGUM City, Davao - When she's off the court, people will likely mistake Tenniel Madis for a spectator than a player. But wait until she struts her stuff with a racket that's almost half her size.
Under the scorching sun on Sunday, the nine-year-old tennis prodigy turned heads as she dispatched an opponent almost twice her age in the 2016 Batang Pinoy at the Tourism and Sports Complex here.
Madis, who hails from Mlang, North Cotabato, is in line to face older and tougher opponents as she goes deep in the premier Under-17 division, but she remains unfazed.
"Hindi po (ako natatakot sa malalaking kalaban)," the soft-spoken Madis, who struggles to speak in Filipino, told SPIN.ph.
Her mother Jasmin, who also serves as her coach, was among the few who were no longer surprised with how she fared.
After all, the self-confessed Serena Williams fan already has silver medals in the Palarong Pambansa in Albay and Olivarez Cup, respectively, under her belt.
She is also ranked second in the 10 years and below category by the Philippine Tennis Association.
Besides, the elder Madis added, the experience her daughter will gain while competing in a higher division will go a long way in her development.
“(Sinali namin siya dito) para talaga makapalo sya sa malalakas na players. Yun kasi ang importante e, maka-match sya sa mga malalakas. It doesn’t mean to say na pag sinalang mo sya doon, you just want to win. Para rin may matutunan sya,” Jasmin said.
The ultimate goal is to see Tenniel get free education while pursuing her tennis dream.
“(Pangarap ko para sa kanya) makatapos lang ng pagaaral. Parang educational plan din itong tennis para sa kanila,” said the elder Madis, whose other daughter also plays tennis.
“In case ma-discover sila, then somebody will let them study in a prestigious university.”
Asked if some schools have already tried to lure her daughter, Jasmin said, “So far meron, pero di ko pa pinapayagan kasi bata pa at babae. Pag college na pwede na.”