Milton Keynes tennis sensation Dylan Smith insists he is more determined than ever to see his name up in lights after falling just short of booking his place to play in a prestigious tournament at Wimbledon.
The 12-year-old, who has long been known as one to look out for in the sport, put his talents on display at the weekend when he competed in the HSBC Road to Wimbledon East Regional Qualifier at Gosling Sports Park in Welwyn Garden City.
Smith was aiming to secure his spot at next month’s HSBC Road to Wimbledon 14 & Under Challenge at the All England Club but couldn’t find a way past Daniel Martin, eventually losing in the quarter-finals 4-6 6-4 6-4.
But despite missing out on playing on the famous SW19 turf this year, the Ousedale School pupil insists there is still much more to come from him.
“I’d never played a full three set match before, so perhaps my fitness levels weren’t quite there, but I nearly won and I’m really pleased with my performance,” said Smith, who is a member of Milton Keynes Tennis Club.
“My stamina is something that I need to work on so that I can keep going for the whole match and I also want to improve my serve and get more power in that so I can pick up some more easy points.
“I think that Daniel went through because he was a bit more aggressive with some of his shots and took it to me more. I tried to keep a rally going but he did well on the big points.
“If I could replay the game I would try to get to the net a bit more and use my energy better.
“I’d love to be able to get to Wimbledon in this tournament in the future. I went there earlier this year and the whole setup is amazing and it would be great to get out there on the court.”
The HSBC Road to Wimbledon 14 & Under Challenge began in 2002 and is an All England Club junior event initiative supported by the LTA, which has now expanded into Asia with a pilot scheme run in India with events in Delhi and Mumbai.
It is the largest junior tournament in the UK, involving 850 clubs, parks and schools with youngsters bidding to reach the national final at the home of British tennis.
And despite Smith being unable to progress to the next stage, former Davis Cup captain and tournament director Paul Hutchins believes he is still one to watch out for.
“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 Dylan will be inspired to enter the event next year and be spurred on to achieve great things in his junior career and who knows maybe play at Junior Wimbledon during the Championships or even 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.