Belfast tennis ace Freddy Murray believes the University of North Carolina can help him emulate his icon Rafael Nadal

Freddy Murray says swapping Ireland for Asheville can help him follow in tennis hero Rafael Nadal’s footsteps.

he Belfast ace, 19, has enrolled in a tennis program at the University of North Carolina where he will spend the next four years developing in a new and challenging environment.

Murray has adored Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion for as long as he can remember, and hopes his brave leap across the pond can catapult him up the international rankings.

“I would say Nadal was my hero, especially growing up,” said Murray, who benefits from Boost Drinks financial backing.

“I had the same racquets as Nadal, I bought all his clothes and I saw all his games.

“My dream is to play for Ireland in the Davis Cup. I would also like to be on the ATP rankings and climb the rankings as much as possible.

“I’m used to being away from home and alone, but I’ve never been away from home for so long.

“But you don’t really have a lot of time to sit down and think for yourself – it’s just a great experience and an adventure.”

SportsAid supports over 1,000 athletes each year – in the early stages of their careers – with a financial grant to cover training and competition costs.

These athletes are Britain’s brightest sporting prospects, nominated for SportsAid by the national governing bodies of more than 60 sports based on set criteria.

Funding from Boost helped Murray compete in his first senior tournament earlier this year, held in Romania over the summer.

The event featured players from the top 300 in the world battling for cash and the right to be considered one of the hottest prospects in the sport.

But Murray is no stranger to this big event, having first represented Ireland at the age of 12 and is now playing against the best players from the American university.

He added: “I thought America would be the best option.

“I know a few people who have been here before and they all said it was great, so I thought it would be the right thing to do.

“I liked the coach, the guys on the team seemed nice and the tennis program looked good – everything is great here.”

Meanwhile, Nadal ended his ATP Finals campaign on a positive note as he broke a four-match losing streak by beating Casper Ruud.

There was nothing up for grabs in terms of the tournament as Nadal was already eliminated after losses to Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ruud guaranteed group victory to advance to the semifinals.

But apart from extra ranking points and prize money, Nadal’s 7-5 7-5 win also gives him something to hold on to as he focuses on preparing for next season.

Boost Drinks provides financial support, recognition and personal development opportunities to young athletes through its partnership with SportsAid. Each athlete will receive a £1,000 bounty to help cover costs such as travel, accommodation and equipment – for more information visit www.boostdrinks.com

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