Aylesbury’s Daniel Dean will never forget his outing at the All England Club after starring in front of former British No.1 Tim Henman as part of the HSBC Road to Wimbledon National 14 & Under Challenge Finals.
The 14-year-old Aylesbury Grammar School pupil booked himself a spot at SW19 by triumphing in the Regional Finals and after qualifying from his group at the iconic venue last week, he lost to Daniel Martin 6-0, 6-1 in the first round of the knockout stages.
“It’s really nice to play on a championship court – the courts are really quick, so it’s hard to time the ball but they are pristine and not worn at all,” Daniel said.
“It’s a great experience to be playing at Wimbledon – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and it’s so good to be here.
“I just wanted to make the most of the opportunity here this week and not leave having regrets. I wanted to enjoy it, play as well as I can and show everyone what I can do on the grass.
“I came through the South-East regional competition to reach Wimbledon and that was a loaded tournament, so I was really happy to get through.
“I was expected to get through but it’s always going to be tough and I was so happy to make it. It’s the only chance I had to make this tournament, so to be able to do it was great.”
Dean, who trains at Halton Tennis Centre, even got the chance to meet former British No.1 and HSBC Tournament Ambassador Henman while playing 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.
“There’s 20,000 kids every year with the Road to Wimbledon and it’s great to see how the standard has improved over the years,” said Henman, a four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist.
“There’s some really good young players. It’s a great week here but it’s then a lot longer than that with the process of playing in their local areas and regionally and coming through.
“It’s a great carrot for the youngsters to realise they’ve got this opportunity of coming to play at Wimbledon.”
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.