Chingford tennis starlet Deji Thomas-Smith insists he is hungrier than ever to see his name in lights after falling just short of booking his spot at a prestigious Wimbledon tournament.
The 13-year-old participated in the HSBC Road to Wimbledon South East Regional Qualifier at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton in an attempt to underline his future potential.
Thomas-Smith was playing for a spot at next month’s HSBC Road to Wimbledon 14 & Under Challenge at the All England Club but couldn’t find a way past Josef Southcombe in the first round, losing 6-1, 6-2.
But despite falling short of a memorable outing on the famous SW19 courts this time, Thomas-Smith, who is a member of The Connaught Club, is adamant we haven’t seen the last of him.
“It was nice to play on the courts but it was a tough match,” said Thomas-Smith. “I played better at the end, he hit quite hard and I found that hard to try and attack more.
“My knee has been troubling me for a week and then my thigh was a bit sore but it was OK. I’ll be back next year definitely to try and do better. It would be a dream to get to play at Wimbledon.
“I’ve been playing tennis since I was nine years old, I really enjoy it, Roger Federer is one of my favourite players, he has a great backhand.”
The HSBC Road to Wimbledon 14 & under Challenge began in 2002 and is the largest junior tournament in the UK, involving some 850 clubs, parks and schools with youngsters bidding to reach the national final at the All England Club.
And although Thomas-Smith failed to advance to Wimbledon, former Davis Cup captain and tournament director Paul Hutchins believes he is still one to watch out for in the future.
“Players are always disappointed when they miss out on qualifying for the HSBC Road to Wimbledon and a chance to play on the grass at Wimbledon,” said Hutchins.
“Hopefully Deji will be inspired to enter the event next year if age eligible or be spurred on to greater achievements in his junior career.
“And who knows he may play at Junior Wimbledon during the Championships or even compete as a pro player in the main draw.”
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.