09:00AM, Saturday 24 August 2019
ASCOT tennis junior Oliver Dickason will not forget his outing at the All England Club in a hurry despite missing out on Road to Wimbledon National 14 and under Challenge Finals glory.
After triumphing at the previous County Finals, the Bradfield Tennis Centre youngster took to Wimbledon’s famous grass courts last week looking to be crowned national champion.
And while unable to better two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in getting his hands on a title at SW19, Dickason, 12, insists it has only fuelled his desire to come back to the iconic venue again to play one day.
“It felt amazing as soon as I knew I’d qualified to play at Wimbledon,” he said. “It’s always been my dream to play here and I’m really happy that I’ve been able to do that.
“I’ve only ever seen it on TV so to be able to play on the same courts and use the same facilities as legends like Roger Federer has been amazing. I feel so privileged to have done it.
“I’ve played on grass a few times before but the standard of the courts was incredible and I’ve really enjoyed learning from playing on the surface.
“I would love to come back to this amazing place and play again in the future.”
The Road to Wimbledon began in 2002 and has continued to expand, initially to India in 2014 before heading to China, Hong Kong and, most recently, Japan.
More than 7000 juniors participate across England, Scotland and Wales, starting in club, park or school events before qualifying for the County finals and then to National Finals at Wimbledon.
Former British number one Tim Henman was also in attendance for Saturday’s finals day, impressed with what he saw from the country’s next generation of tennis stars.
“It’s very special for the young people to get to play on grass at Wimbledon,” he said. “There’s a huge legacy element to that and for the Championships to be promoting grass court tennis is very important and that’s what makes it very memorable.
“It’s a great tournament for the young kids to participate in. To get the opportunity to come to Wimbledon and play on grass is huge, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“For the kids who play nationwide in the competition, it’s a real incentive to have the All England Club as the destination for the final, the players know if they play well and keep working hard then they have a chance of playing at the club.
“There’s no doubt the standard is improving. It has improved all the time over my time involved and you can see there are some really good young players developing.”
The Road to Wimbledon is a joint initiative between the All England Club and the LTA. There are two strands, County and Regional/International, which sees players in the 14 and under age group compete to earn the right to play at the Road to Wimbledon National Finals on the grass courts of The All England Club.
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