Wimbledon semi-finalist trains youngesters

Emily Arbuthnott with former Great British number one Tim Henman at Wimbledon.

Emily Arbuthnott with former Great British number one Tim Henman at Wimbledon. - Credit: Archant

EMILY Arbuthnott achieved a lifetime dream last week when she smashed a forehand winner past a former Wimbledon semi-finalist on the manicured lawns of the All England Club.

The 15-year old aspiring tennis player has been inspired by the performances of Andy Murray and Laura Robson - and is now planning a return visit to SW19 to make headlines of her own.

Haberdashers’ Aske’s School pupil Arbuthnott, who trains at Batchwood Tennis Centre, was a double winner at last year’s HSBC Road to Wimbledon tournament, claiming the girl’s singles and then joining forces with Holly Horsfall to win the doubles.

And the prize was a chance to enjoy a coaching clinic with four-time semi-finalist Tim Henman and Arbuthnott enjoyed every second of her appearance on Court 14.

“Just getting to play on the courts here is a dream and it just makes me more determined to get back in the future,” she said.

“It’s probably one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever played in front of, so I was pretty nervous but I soon forgot they were there and started to enjoy it.

“I was lucky to get a wildcard for the girl’s singles qualifying but unfortunately I didn’t make it through.

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“But I’ve got a couple more years as a junior, so this is a great inspiration for me. It’s just so nice to play on grass because we don’t get the opportunity very often.”

Henman took time out from his commentary and All England Club duties to put some of the next generation of British players through their paces as part of grass roots tournament, which starts with 20,000 players nationwide and this year will conclude with finals on Wimbledon’s outside courts.

And he believes the performances of Murray and Robson - and the prospect of playing at Wimbledon - is motivating for any young British player and he likes the shape of our future prospects.

“HSBC Road to Wimbledon is a great scheme and for someone like Emily to get the chance to have a Wimbledon experience is only going to benefit her if she comes back here as a player in juniors or seniors,” he said.

“It’s just a massive opportunity for a British player and we are lucky to have Wimbledon as our home tournament and it’s an asset not a burden.

“It’s a great carrot. It should inspire you competing here. It inspired me as a six-year old watching Bjorn Borg and when I read that we had the best tournament in the world but no players to compete in it, it made me more determined.”

Arbuthnott will spend a summer travelling across Europe in a bid to improve her rankings point and will represent the British junior squad at the European Cup in Italy.

And she believes the future is bright for British tennis.

“Everybody has got a bit more belief in British tennis with how Andy has done and also Laura and Heather Watson on the women’s side,” she added.

“Laura is just a brilliant player and such an inspiration and she was about the same age as me when she won junior Wimbledon. She’s improved so much in the past years and worked so hard, it’s inspiring and motivating to see how she is doing against the best players in the world.”

Tim Henman is an Ambassador for HSBC, sponsor of the HSBC Road to Wimbledon National 14 & Under Challenge, the UK’s largest national junior grass court tournament.