Rothbury tennis starlet Gareth Rickaby insisted he could still hold his head up high despite falling just short of a dream outing at Wimbledon.
As the likes of British No.1 Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams prepare for this month’s Wimbledon assault, Rickaby had the chance to book himself a spot at the world-famous venue as this weekend he competed in the HSBC Road to Wimbledon North Regional Qualifier at Ilkley Tennis Club in West Yorkshire.
The 13-year-old Dr Thomlinson Middle School pupil was playing for a spot at August’s National Finals of the HSBC Road to Wimbledon 14 & Under Challenge at the All England Club, looking to walk away as overall champion of the tournament.
But, despite falling short of a memorable outing at the famous SW19 courts this time around, Northumberland player Rickaby is adamant we haven’t seen the last of him.
“It has been a really good day,” he said. “It has been really cool having so many players here.
“The standard of tennis has been fantastic and everyone was really excited to be here, which created a really good atmosphere.
“It would have been a really good experience to play at Wimbledon. I have watched lots of stars play there before including Tomas Berdych, so it would have been good to follow in their footsteps.
“I love tennis because unlike football, you can’t just win because of one small event, you have to be consistent throughout the game.”
The HSBC Road to Wimbledon National 14 & Under Challenge, the UK’s largest grass court tournament, forms part of HSBC’s investment in grassroots tennis; an area of the sport the Official Banking Partner of The Championships has been supporting since 2008. Each year over 10,000 youngsters take part in the series of national tennis tournaments, helping to inspire the next generation of Wimbledon stars to take their tennis careers from the back garden to Centre Court.
And after watching the action for herself at the South East regional qualifier, HSBC ambassador and former Scottish international tennis player Judy Murray was impressed with what she saw from the crop of 2016.
“The HSBC Road to Wimbledon is a wonderful grassroots programme which more than 10,000 youngsters take part in each year and culminates in the chance to play at Wimbledon, which is every young tennis player’s dream and inspires them every year,” Murray said.
“This programme is a very big part of the British tennis calendar and youngsters recognise the HSBC Road to Wimbledon as a tournament that offers a prize to play at Wimbledon.
“This prize is a real incentive to enter and do their very best to make it to the final stage.
“Going along and receiving coaching on how to hit the ball properly is one thing but competitive opportunities at a young age need to be fun and stimulating because you want them to enjoy the sport and keep coming back.
“In my opinion, it doesn’t get more stimulating than the ultimate prize of being able to play at Wimbledon.
“Wimbledon is one of those places that is on most people’s bucket list or it is their dream to go there but for most people they are only able to see it on the television so the HSBC Road to Wimbledon is creating a wonderful opportunity for kids across the country.” HSBC is the Official Banking Partner of The Championships and is committed to supporting grassroots tennis, helping to inspire the next generation of Wimbledon stars to take their tennis careers from the back garden to Centre Court.