Young tennis stars making a racket

TWO of Suffolk's brightest young tennis prospects have been watching Wimbledon with added interest this week having qualified to play on the famous SW19 courts themselves next month.

Stuart Watson

TWO of Suffolk's brightest young tennis prospects have been watching Wimbledon with added interest this week having qualified to play on the famous SW19 courts themselves next month.

Since 2002, the Road to Wimbledon National 14 & Under Challenge has given the nation's best emerging players a shot at battling through club and county rounds in order to play at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

This year, Ipswich Sports Club's Rohan Abel and Framlingham College's Lydia Green were crowned Suffolk's boys and girls county champions respectively at Felixstowe Tennis Club.

All county winners are confirmed one of 44 places in the main Road to Wimbledon draw on August 18, while the other 20 places on each of the boys' and girls' draw will be made up of the best runners-ups.

Ipswich Sports Club's Paul Midgley and Holbrook Tennis Club's Charlotte Hillyard were the losing finalists in the Suffolk finals, the pair now facing a nervous wait to see if they too will make it to the national finals.

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The competition, which this year is sponsored by HSBC, starts with over 20,000 children entering nationwide.

Abel, 13, is currently ranked No.1 for his age group in Suffolk and is nationally ranked with an 8.1 LTA rating. Having started playing tennis at the age of five, Abel has gone on to play tournaments all over the country and this year has impressively qualified for the Nottingham Indoor Main Draw series.

Meanwhile, Brandeston Hall School pupil Green is not only ranked Suffolk No.1 for her age group but earlier this year was awarded Suffolk Under-18 Player of the Year.

Of the runners-ups, Hillyard looks most likely to reach the main draw. She is currently ranked sixth in Suffolk at U16 level and, as of March this year, has reduced her LTA rating to 8.2 thanks to a wins over higher rated players.

The 14-year-old also plays No.1 for Holbrook High School and is a member of Holbrook Tennis Club's ladies team which, in recent times, has won Division Two of both the summer and winter Ipswich & District Leagues.

Suffolk's representatives at the Road to Wimbledon will be hoping to emulate the county's leading junior player Ashley Watling who last week was playing at Junior Wimbledon following a wild card entry.

Four years ago Watling also qualified for the Road to Wimbledon finals where he was able to win the boys' doubles title alongside Matthew Hough.

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