Wimbledon’s Rising Stars

WHEN the rain falls at Wimbledon and the covers come on, the referee’s office tries to look on the bright side.
“We remain hopeful,” is one of the most common announcements to the spectators waiting for the showers to clear.
It’s also a phrase which could apply to British tennis after it served up yet another failure at the 2007 Championships.
The cream on Wimbledon’s strawberries may have gone sour again as far as home-grown success goes, but those in charge of the game in this country claim there is hope for the future.
Roger Draper has been chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association for just over a year, heralding a new ruthless era at the sport’s governing body.
He talks about producing a generation of “young warriors” who will grow up to plant their flags on Henman Hill.
One of them could be Daniel Smethurst, 16, from Failsworth, who has just been awarded a place in the junior squads at the new £40m National Tennis Centre in London.
It’s been quite a time for the teenager.
After sitting 10 GCSEs last month, he moved to the Lawn Tennis Association’s HQ a fortnight ago, picked by top coaches as one of Britain’s bright hopes for the future.

Then on Wednesday evening, in the shadow of Centre Court, he played his first ever match at Wimbledon and won against a player ranked 34th in the world back in April.
Thanks to the rain, Daniel had been waiting since last Saturday to play his first round tie in the boys’ singles.

So there was no time for nursery nurse mum Cherill to celebrate her son’s victory.
She had to leave after the final point to be back at work in Oldham the next morning.
“It’s a fantastic experience playing Wimbledon,” Daniel told me after the match.
“I’ve been concentrating on school a lot recently and now I’m a full time tennis player.
“I was a bit nervous going out there but it was great fun. On paper I wasn’t expected to win.”
Playing tennis since the age of three, he took part in a children’s exhibition on Centre Court when he was 11.
Now he aims to make it back there at a future Wimbledon Championships, along with an ambition to represent his country at the 2012 Olympics, when the All England Club hosts the tennis.
“It’s something to aspire to and I’ll only be 21,” he smiled.
Commentator Mark Petchey played for Britain 11 times in the Davis Cup and is former coach to our current No 1 man, Andy Murray.
He says the number of children playing tennis in this country needs to expand dramatically if more contenders like Daniel are to be found for the future.
“You need those players that have that desire, hunger, vision and ambition. And at the moment, we just don’t have enough of those,” he explained.
Last week Tim Henman said the current crop of adult British players needed a wake-up call.
“I think for years we’ve been far too accepting of mediocrity,” he complained.
“We have to be a little bit more ruthless and wipe the slate clean and start really targetting the younger ones, because that is going to be our future.”
Although Daniel lost a near two-hour second round tie yesterday, he’s had his first taste of winning at Wimbledon and wants more.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” said dad Nigel, who also supported his son at SW19.
“Daniel can use this as a launch pad to play more often with the better juniors in the world.

“Not many people get the chance to play here and have the experience of winning a match as well.
“It just reflects all the hard work that Daniel has put in over the years.”
For those on the road to possible glory, tennis is an expensive sport – both in terms of cost and the time spent travelling to tournaments up and down the country.
“My parents have been a fantastic support,” explained Daniel.
“Not just this week. It’s such a long term thing for them. They’ve been such good supporters, and my older brother Adam as well.”
Current singles title holders Roger Federer and Amelie Mauresmo were both former junior champions at Wimbledon. Daniel aims to be back in the same competition next year, serving up more wins.
Ruled out of this year’s tournament by a wrist injury, Murray is currently our best hope to one day become the first British man to win the men’s singles since Stockport-born Fred Perry in 1936.
Will he be joined in his quest by a new generation of home-grown winners?
As the saying goes: “We remain hopeful.”
*Justine Henin had just left the small private interview rooms near the players’ area when I spoke to Daniel on Wednesday night.
Because of the rain delays, some of the junior matches had been transferred to the grounds of Southlands College, across the park from the All England Club.
But wild card Daniel’s first round tie was played on Court 8, just a lob away from Centre Court, while his second round was on Court 16 – between Centre and No 1 Courts.
Daniel echoed the comments of other juniors at the National Tennis Centre, saying there is no lack of effort, or fitness, from the rising young stars.

“We’ve got great coaches there and the training is spot on.
“I’ve had two weeks there training full time and the typical day has been nine till 10 in the gym, 10 to 12 on court, 2 till 4 on court and then 4 in the gym doing either weights or aerobic.
It’s a full day but it’s what you need to do.”
Now Daniel plans to raise his International Tennis Federation ranking and is due to play in a tournament in Portugal later this month.
He’s also on the look out for potential sponsors.
After winning on Wednesday, he gave his coveted Wimbledon towel away to two female teenage fans waiting by the umpire’s chair.
“We all talk about it in the dressing room, ‘Get your towel, because you don’t get many memories,’ Daniel said.
“But I gave it to them because I knew I had another match – and would get aother towel,” he grinned.
Let’s hope he’s back to collect a few more next year.
* Daniel, who is still competing in the boys’ doubles, defeated 17-year-old American Austin Krajicek: 6-7 6-3 11-9 (super tie-break). He then lost to German Dimitris Kleftakos, 18, ranked 50 in the world last February: 4-6 1-6.
* Sat July 7 update: Daniel and partner George Coupland today defeated Aussie second seeds Greg Jones and Brydan Klein in the 2nd round of the boys’ doubles and then, in their second match of the day, lost to Italian seventh seeds Daniel Lopez and Matteo Trevisan this evening in the quarter finals. Altogether, a towel-tastic performance.

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