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ONE of the country’s top tennis coaches believes Pippa Horn could make it to the very top of the sport after watching her make her Wimbledon debut.

Despite having missed six months through injury, the 15-year-old ran world number 51 Stephanie Nauta close before succumbing 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6) on court number 10 at SW19.

But Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) coach Louis Cayer — who has previously worked with Andy Murray but now coaches Horn — has seen enough to be confident the teenager can one day grace Centre Court.

French Canadian Cayer, who also coached Sébastien Lareau and Daniel Nestor to Olympic doubles glory at the Sydney 2000 Games, said: “Our ambition is to make her the best she can be and I think she can be a top international player.”

West Harling resident Horn made her Wimbledon debut on Saturday after receiving a wildcard for the girls’ singles.

However, to the backing track of a Centre Court crowd enthralled by the men’s singles third round encounter between Novak Djokovic and Marcos Baghdatis, Horn played out an exciting match with Nauta that ended in defeat but could have been so different.

In a post-match interview with the Diss Express, Britain’s youngest under-18 national champion said: “I thought I competed really well, but it’s always disappointing to lose, especially as I had set points in the first set and one in the second set.

“But overall I really enjoyed it, I’m proud of myself and glad I competed.

“It was really good to play in front of so many people. I heard the crowd from the match on Centre Court but tried not to let that effect me.”

After tripping over a tennis ball in November, Horn was sidelined for six months after also suffering a stress fracture to her back when she tried to return.

But after overcoming those setbacks, she is now gunning for a place in the world’s top 50 by the end of the year, so she can qualify for next year’s grand slams on her own merit.

She added: “I’m looking at competing in higher grade tournaments — definitely a step up from what I have been doing.

“I don’t think the injuries have set me back in my development. Maybe they have confidence-wise, but I think I am getting that back just in time.”

Horn — who is coached by Jamie Evans at Gosling Sports Park, as well as Cayer — was also handed a place in the girls’ doubles draw with partner Sarah Beth Askew.

They faced sixth seeds Jesika Maleckova and Chantal Skamlova, of the Czech Republic and Slovakia respectively, in round one on Wednesday and lost 7-5, 6-4.

n For a full match report of Pippa’s debut, turn to Page 53.