The Wimbledon Junior Tennis Initiative welcomed players from Barcelona to the AELTC in August and some of the squad were invited to play with them. It was a great experience for everyone, especially me, as I got to practise my Spanish, translating for some of the team who didn’t speak English.
We started off by warming up and then we went into games. As they didn’t bring any girls I had to play against the boys – the games were a good standard and everyone enjoyed themselves.
In October, four boys and four girls, including myself, from the WJTI squad were very lucky to be chosen to go to the Fitzwilliam Club in Dublin to play in the annual Wimbledon vs. Fitzwilliam fixture.
23rd October was the day the All England team travelled to Ireland. We arrived at Heathrow at 5am and, although we were all still rather sleepy, we were full of excitement for the competition ahead. We boarded the plane without too much fuss and settled in for the flight which went very quickly. It seemed that no sooner had we got up above the clouds, we were then heading back down again.
When we arrived in Dublin we jumped into a taxi which drove us to our hotel. We settled into our rooms and prepared to go and meet our hosts for lunch at their club. After lunch introductions were made and we were soon off to play our first match. We began by playing doubles, with the girls winning both their matches and the boys losing, although they put up a very good fight. A game of mixed doubles followed. Again, we won two matches and lost the other two, meaning that at the end of the first day the scores were even. The pressure was on to win our singles the following day.
The first day ended with the two teams going out to dinner together, to the local pizza restaurant where we could all talk and socialise with each other. It was a very enjoyable meal and everyone mixed in, all talking and laughing together and, as they say in Ireland,” we all had a great craic”. I don’t think the waiter could believe how much food we kept on ordering, but not so much as a crumb was left when we had finished.
The next day began with the boys’ singles, again keeping the scores equal as two of the boys won their matches and two of them lost. All our boys played extremely well, but the opposition were so strong they had the advantage over us. This was the same with the girls, as some of them are full-time players.
When the boys were playing their matches the girls watched them and the atmosphere was truly amazing. There was clapping and cheering involved to keep the boys’ spirits high. When the boys had finished their matches, the girls went on court and it was the boys’ turn to support the girls. Our matches lasted a very long time and we fought very hard to try to get the results we wanted. Again, it was extremely close, with three out of four matches going to a third set tie-break, again winning two and losing two. The scores were still even, so it was all down to the second round of doubles playing the other pair. This was when the scores determined the winner. Unfortunately we won one out of the four doubles, meaning that the Fitzwilliam Club beat us by one match.
The day ended with mixed doubles which was played for fun. I got to play with a boy from the Fitzwilliam Club, as we had to mix the pairings so we were playing with the opposition in a mixed doubles format.
To say goodbye and thank you to the Fitzwilliam Club for their hospitality, we had a Presidential Dinner at their club. The boys had to wear a suit and tie and the girls got dressed up as it was a formal meal. It was weird to see everyone out of their tennis clothes for once – how different they all looked! Before the meal we had drinks together, speeches were made and the winning team was announced.
It was a lovely way to say goodbye and thank you. I’ll never forget this amazing experience and I look forward to seeing the Fitzwilliam Club back here at SW19 next year. As we will be playing at home, I hope we can get a better result.