NEWPORT’S Lily Scaplehorn insists she will never forget her outing at the All England Club after starring in front of former British No1 Tim Henman as part of the HSBC Road to Wimbledon National 14 and Under Challenge Finals.
The 12-year-old Bassaleg School pupil booked herself a spot at SW19 after competing in her County Finals and won two group matches before being knocked out in the second round of the Girls County Main Draw.
Some 20,000 promising young tennis players from all over Britain competed in pursuit of a prestigious place at Wimbledon with Scaplehorn among the top 144 boys and girls to have earned the right to play at the National Finals.
And, despite failing to follow in 2013 Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray’s footsteps by lifting silverware at SW19, Scaplehorn admitted her outing at the All England Lawn Tennis Club was certainly the highlight of her summer.
“It was amazing to play at Wimbledon. I’d been there three times as a spectator, most recently last year, and I never thought I would get the chance to play matches on the courts,” Scaplehorn said.
“It was just surreal to play on the same courts that the players I look up to were on just over a month ago. I will remember this experience forever.
“I felt in good form going into the tournament. I’d just done a competition on grass so I had got used to the surface and I think that helped me a lot.
“I really like watching Maria Sharapova play. I like her game style because she hits the ball hard and I like to play with power and I’d love to be able to emulate her.”
Scaplehorn, who attends David Lloyd Leisure in Cardiff, even got the chance to meet former British No.1 and HSBC Tournament Ambassador Henman during her time at Wimbledon.
Henman spent time with the players, signed autographs, and posed for photos with the finalists and insisted he was impressed with the standard on show this year at SW19.
“I’ve been involved for the 12 years of the programme, and it’s fantastic to see how the standard has improved,” said Henman, who achieved four semi-final finishes at Wimbledon before retiring in 2007.
“There are kids that are going to want to play tournaments and compete at a higher level and this is a great stepping stone, to have this experience and learn from the match-play and competition.
“You talk about the mental side of things, and it’s that application, going out there and giving 100 per cent is all you can do – those types of values will get you a long way in life.”
The HSBC Road to Wimbledon National 14 & Under Challenge is the UK's largest national junior grass court tournament and forms part of HSBC’s investment in the stars of the future - www.hsbcroadtowimbledon.com