Jada Prepares For Wimbledon Finals
Hastings tennis junior Jada Ani, 13, was attending the Costa Del Tennis camp sessions in Barcelona last week after qualifying to play in the finals of the HSBC Road to Wimbledon Challenge – the biggest national junior tournament in Britain for ages 14 and under. These finals will be staged on the All England grass courts at Wimbledon between 14 and 19 August. Jada sealed her place as Sussex representative by winning a local competition at the Amherst club in Hastings, then triumphing at the County finals which took place at West Worthing on 15 and 16 July.
The Challenge competition is open to all players in the age range who have an LTA rating of 7.1 or above. This excludes those already established at regional level who would tend to have lower ratings and can enter a separate international tournament. However qualification via the County Finals is intended to identify and encourage players from mainstream clubs and schools to compete at national level. Jada richly deserves that chance, having dropped only two games in six sets on her way to victory at West Worthing, including a 6-0 6-1 trouncing of Sussex County junior Amelia Devlin in the final.
Jada had only once played on a grass court before but says she found the fast pace and relatively high bounce to her liking. She also feels that the variety of coaching which she receives both from the 6-Love team at Amherst and from the County academy at Eastbourne have given her an edge over opponents who tend to stay more on the baseline of the court and rely on hitting winners from there. She has a strong serve and rasping forehand herself, drilled over the years by Amherst coaches Doug Keen and Jack Graham, but has also learnt to make volleying a strong part of her matchplay (Doug is a doubles specialist). More recently she has been working with Pete Farthing on her mental skills; she reckons that this has given her an extra edge in recent weeks. She has also been hitting with veteran British international Frances Candy, perfecting slice and play drop shots – she found these worked well on the grass.
“I felt under pressure at the County Finals”, she admits, “but I knew I could win, and I was very consistent, staying calm despite feeling nervous.”
She thinks there will be some “amazing players” among the 47 other qualifiers at the national finals next month. But she will have been working on her game in Barcelona last week (city where both Andy Murray and Jo Konta honed their skills as juniors), and will go to Wimbledon with confidence high.