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Wendelken decides to leave UK in pursuit of professional career

DOUBLE TROUBLE: James Story and Harry Wendleken won the first round of the boys' doubles competition at Wimbledon on Wednesday
DOUBLE TROUBLE: James Story and Harry Wendleken won the first round of the boys' doubles competition at Wimbledon on Wednesday

Harry Wendelken – one of Culford School’s tennis talents – has recognised he is at a ‘make or break’ time in pursuing a professional career.

The 16-year-old competed in the Boys’ Singles competition at Wimbledon on Saturday in his Junior Grand Slam debut, ahead of a career-defining move to a Swedish tennis academy.

The Horseheath youngster has left Culford, following his GCSE exams – despite the school’s tennis site being selected as one of 11 regional centres around the UK recently – to continue to pursue a professional career in the sport.

He will instead train at the Great to Good tennis academy on the outskirts of Stockholm.

He will relocate to the city later this summer to join the academy run by three former Davis Cup winning players – Magnus Norman, Nicklas Kulti and Mikael Tillström – in a bid to boost his skills further.

He said: “It feels like this is the age where, if I want to make it as a professional tennis player, then now is the time to focus.

“The time for focusing on my education is done for now, and I feel that this is the right move for me to make to take that next big step towards going pro.

“Obviously I’m sad about leaving Culford though. I’ve learned so much there but feel this is what I need to do.”

He said this decision had been vindicated by his Wimbledon experience, losing to 14th seed Juan Manuel Cerundolo in the first round after being handed a wild card by the SW19 club.

Wendelken’s top results on the ITF junior circuit this year did enough to earn the discretionary nod from Wimbledon selectors.

It began well, with Wendelken winning the opening set 6-4. But, in a match lasting two hours and five minutes, his opponent fought back from a set down to eventually win 4-6 6-4 7-5.

Harry admitted that ‘a lot of’ nerves on the day had a likely impact on his game, although it was as much the scorching conditions and lack of preparation time that cost him victory.

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “To be a set up and not win is disappointing but I learned a lot which will help me be prepared for next year.

“There was a bit of expectation from the British crowd too.

“Obviously I was in my junior grand slam debut but they didn’t know that, they just saw I was British.

“I tried to use it to my advantage as much as possible and I won that first set even though I was really nervous.

“But it was so hot on court and I couldn’t keep up the same pace. I haven’t been training or even playing because of my GCSEs over the past few weeks and I think that had a big effect.

“I was mentally and physically drained by the end – and he didn’t even look like he’d broken a sweat barely.

“So I also learned my game is where it is at the moment.”

But Wendelken, alongside James Story, is into the second round of the Boys’ Doubles – which was beginning as the paper went to press on Thursday afternoon – as they beat their first-round opponents in straight sets.

Mum Kim said the family were ‘very proud’ and hoped this was just the beginning. Harry will continue to build on his ranking to be eligible for qualifying in August for the Junior US Open.

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