STOURBRIDGE tennis starlet James Portman 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 14-year-old has long been known as one to watch for the future and was in action again on Saturday at the HSBC Road to Wimbledon Midlands Regional Qualifier at the NottinghamTennis Centre.
Portman was playing for a spot at next month’s HSBC Road to Wimbledon 14 and under challenge at the All England Club but lost out in the second round to seventh seed Daniel Blackburn, going down 6-3 6-1.
But despite falling short of the famous SW19 this time, Redhill School pupil Portman is adamant we haven’t seen the last of him.
“I knocked out a better player than me in the first round, so I had a good day overall,” said Portman, who plays at David Lloyd in Dudley.
“Daniel was rated higher than me, so I'm happy with my performance in that game - it's the best tennis I played on the day.
“It's been a great experience for me to play in this tournament and I hope to come back next year and try and qualify for the Wimbledon stages again.”
The HSBC Road to Wimbledon 14 and under challenge began in 2002 and is an All England Club junior event initiative supported by the LTA – it has now even 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 some 850 clubs, parks and schools with youngsters bidding to reach the national final at the All England Club.
And although Portman failed to advance, 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 James 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 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 and 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.