Justin Sherriff is a household name amongst young tennis players across NSW. Here he describes his life as a tennis coach and explains how he’s part of a tennis dynasty!
How long have you lived in Armidale?
I have lived in Armidale for 20 years now … my 20th winter. I am now a local! I have two children: Brock, who is 19 and Adelaide, who is 16 and my wife, Karen Sherriff.
My wife and I have taken our children to tournaments most of their lives and will continue to do so, as the other players we coach become like family over time.
When did your interest in tennis start?
As a young child I travelled to tournaments with my mother and father, who played tennis constantly. I then participated in Tennis Camps my father ran when I was 4-years-old.
My first tournament was when I was 7 at Burren Junction, and I played an Armidale player who was in his twenties – I only lost 9 – 6. I played at most country tennis centres in NSW, QLD and Sydney and Brisbane, and on a good day could beat most of my age group in NSW.
Your entire family loves tennis?
Yes. My grandfather Ross Sherriff, who passed away in 2007, moved from Cowra to Sydney to train in the Australian Davis Cup Squad and became one of the most successful coaches in Australia. He coached 23 players who have played at Wimbledon. In fact, Ross probably coached more prominent players over the decades than any other coach in Australian history, coaching the likes of Phil Dent, Tony Roche, Debbie Freeman, Jean Leonard, Catherine Barclay and Roger Waugh.
My father, Fred Sherriff, played at the Australian Open in the 4th round, but lost to Rod Laver 7 – 5 in the fifth set. He became a top line international player and coached for many years at Grafton and the Northern Tablelands. Both my father’s sisters, Gail and Carol, also played the world circuit, and Gail won the French Open doubles titles 4 times. Carol reached the Quarter Finals of the Wimbledon Doubles Championship and Semi-Finals of the French Open Doubles. Gail also played for Australia in the Federation Cup.
My family continue to play to this day. Both my children love the game and are both high level country and state players and coaches! My three brothers are also tennis coaches, and my sister is qualified.
Tell us about your tennis academy?
I took over the long standing business from Brian Moselly in 1992 and have developed the programmes over the years. We now offer tennis coaching and competition programmes for the entire community. Hot Shots for the 4 – 7 years, beginners tennis for the 8 – 12 years, private and semi-private lessons for 13 – 18 years and adult coaching programmes. They are available at TAS, NEGS, PLC, Martins Gully, Guyra and Kingstown.
School holiday camps are available every holiday break and competitions for A and B grade players on Tuesday nights. B and C grade comps on Saturday afternoons.
How long have you been coaching, and what are your greatest achievements?
I began coaching when I was 12 as an assistant to my father at Holiday Camps and then ran my own part-time coaching business at 17 at small country centres around Grafton. I took the opportunity to buy a larger business in Armidale, a town I was familiar with from tennis tournaments. It was the best decision I have made to raise our family in a town with so many talented and positive people.
I have coached for 20 years now and developed many leading national ranked players, such as Kirk Carrington-Hastings, ranked number 12 in the 18s in the late ‘90s and receiving a scholarship to study and play in the USA. He is now the managing director of the Fujarah Country Club, a Tennis Academy in Dubai. More recently Rachel Assef, who is ranked 2nd in Australia for the under 16 Girls and many other highly state ranked players.
You have recently secured a tournament for Armidale?
I applied and have been granted a Junior Australian Ranking Point Tournament for boys and girls in the 12, 14 and 16 years age groups. Points will also be given for the doubles and consolation events. We will also have under 10s events, Open B grade events and $4,000 in prize money for the Open events. It is going to be run over three days, from 4 – 6 October. A tennis tournament of this level hasn’t been in Armidale for 25 years, and we are expecting it will attract over 100 high level players from all over NSW.
Which tennis players do you admire?
My role models were and still are Ken Rosewall, because he is smooth and deadly but the greatest sportsman. John McEnroe, because he never believed in defeat. Pat Cash, because he always improved himself. Pat Rafter, because he is the toughest competitor and has incredible reflexes. Pete Sampras, because he played the best game to destroy his opponents’ game and finally, Rafael Nadal, because he will be there every point ‘til his opponent no longer is!