New Brunswick

With dreams of pro career, 12-year-old newcomer blazes a trail in N.B. tennis world

Renata Reut, originally from Kazakhstan, got her first tennis racket at only a year old. The gift from her father started as something fun for her to use to hit the balls around, but her parents soon realized she had something special.

Renata Reut holds provincial titles for U14, women’s open

An unsmiling young girl looking straight forward, with her body turned to the side
At only 12, Renata Reut has captured the attention of her community, as she works toward her ultimate goal of going pro. (Michael Heenan/CBC)

Renata Reut got her first tennis racket at only a year old.

Her father gave it to her so she could hit the balls around and have fun, but her parents soon realized she had something special.

At three, they enrolled her in lessons and by five, she started competing.

Now 12, the Grade 7 student in Fredericton knows what it takes to work hard and chase her dreams.

"I just love it," she said.

A young girl jumping in the air with a tennis racket to hit a ball
Renata played tennis from an early age. At three, she enrolled in lessons, and by five, she was playing tournaments. (Submitted by Lana Reut)

She moved to New Brunswick in 2019 from Almaty, Kazakhstan, with her parents and three siblings. She spoke only Russian at the time but quickly learned English and French. 

Reut's mother, Lana Reut, said the family moved to Canada for a better life, and her husband got a job offer in New Brunswick.

Lana said Renata has always been interested in tennis, and after the move to Canada, she continued to practise nearly every day, racking up provincial titles and working toward her goal of going pro.

"This is some kind of energy inside of her," said Lana. "When she was three … she watched other girls playing, like even if they were like seven, eight years old, she wanted to play with them."

Renata said she's inspired by her role model, Kazakhstan professional tennis player Elena Rybakina. She also idolized Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova from an early age.

WATCH | Fredericton girl leaving her mark on the tennis community:

Tearing up the tennis courts

3 months ago
Duration 5:36
Renata Reut, born in Kazakhstan and now living in New Brunswick, wants to be a professional tennis player. And the 12-year-old is well on her way.

Poker face on the court

Roger Duval, Renata's coach and a former pro circuit player, met Renata in October 2020 after he saw a video of her playing and thought she had a lot of potential.

Duval said Renata possesses a variety of tennis skills, including a strong tennis IQ, meaning she knows what to do before she's told. And she doesn't show much emotion or fear on the court, which works to her advantage.

A smiling woman with long black hair, wearing a plaid beige scarf
Lana Reut, Renata's mother, said she believes Renata has what it takes to achieve her dreams. (Michael Heenan/CBC)

He said she's the current U14 provincial champion and the provincial women's open champion. She also competed at the outdoor national championships under 12 last year, he said.

But the competitive side of the sport isn't cheap. 

Duval said even if someone dominates locally or provincially in the sport, to advance in competition, they need to compete regionally to be able to qualify for nationals. 

He said people have taken an interest in her and helped raise money to send her to tournaments, and sponsors have stepped up to help with her equipment. 

"We all know the adage 'it takes a village to raise a child,'" said Duval. "Well, it takes also a village for a tennis player."

A young girl jumping up in the air with a tennis racket
Renata found her stride in New Brunswick, clinching the U14 and women's open titles for the province. (Michael Heenan/CBC)

Sport growing but few indoor opportunities in N.B.

Marc Thibault, the executive director of Tennis New Brunswick, said he has watched tennis grow in popularity globally in the last number of years, which included it becoming a year-round sport, as opposed to one that was only played in the summer.

During the pandemic, he said the sport grew even more because it was seen as safer than team sports.

But that means demand has also increased, he said, and in New Brunswick, there's only one designated indoor tennis centre, which is in Fredericton. 

"Anybody outside the Fredericton region doesn't have as good of access to year-round programming as those in the Fredericton region, unless they do a lot of travelling throughout the course of the winter," he said.

Thibault said at the national level, two to six New Brunswick kids qualify each year, for either the outdoor or indoor national championships. But he said a big goal of many high-performance youth players is to get a scholarship to play in the United States, which would lead to better opportunities to go professional.

An unsmiling man wearing a ball cap and small circular glasses.
Roger Duval, Renata’s coach and a former pro circuit player, said Renata has a strong tennis IQ. (Michael Heenan/CBC)

He said if that route isn't taken, a lot of high-performing Atlantic players end up having to move to a major centre like Toronto or Montreal.

"If they want to go to that next level, that professional level, that international level, you know, they just need better than what we probably can offer them here in the region."

A girl wearing all black on a tennis court with a tennis racket hitting a ball
Renata can be seen here competing at the outdoor national championships in August. (Submitted by Lana Reut)

Dreams of Grand Slam wins

In the short term, Renata has her eyes on clinching one of the top three Atlantic spots so she can once again qualify for the national competition. But in the long term, she has bigger dreams.

"I really want to become a professional tennis player when I grow up, to win Grand Slams," she said.

As she works toward that goal, Renata has her parents, siblings and the community behind her. 

Four kids standing on a tennis court and holding large flags.
Renata qualified for the last outdoor nationals in the under 12 category, a goal she hopes to achieve again. (Submitted by Lana Reut)

Lana Reut said she truly believes Renata has what it takes to make it big. 

"I'm her mom, so I believe in her," said Lana. "We have so many people who support us, who support her, so everything is in her hands — she can do it."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hannah Rudderham is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick. She grew up in Cape Breton, N.S., and moved to Fredericton in 2018. You can send story tips to hannah.rudderham@cbc.ca.

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