A compelling week of competitive tennis at the LTA Under 18 National Junior Championships concluded on Friday with victory for Solihul’s Luca Pow and Mingge (Mimi) Xu, from Bridgend, south Wales.
I have been playing well and I’m so happy to come through to win. The first set was a good level from me but then Talia raised her game. I am back for the under-16s next week and hopefully I can play well again. Mingge Xu
Their victories earned both of them wild cards into the Wimbledon qualifying singles draw this summer, a remarkable achievement, particular for Xu, who is still only 14!
In her final, she defeated a player two years her senior, Leicestershire’s Talia Neilson-Gatenby 6-4,7-5, this after overcoming the No 1 seed, 17-year-old Millfield School girl, Francesca Davis, in an epic three set semi-final, 2-6. 6-3, 7-5.
“I enjoyed every moment of it,” said Bridgend based Xu, who was seeded three for the tournament. “I have been playing well and I’m so happy to come through to win. The first set was a good level from me but then Talia raised her game. I am back for the under-16s next week and hopefully I can play well again.”
The watching LTA Women’s National Coach, Katie O’Brien, was impressed with what she saw during the week.
“The standard was excellent and that is the most pleasing aspect. The quality in this group coming through is great this year and they all get along so well. There is great camaraderie among them, so hopeful they will all push each other on.”
Neilson-Gatenby’s reward will be a guaranteed place into the Wimbledon Junior event during the second week of Wimbledon.
In the boys’ event, 4th seed Luca Pow defeated top seed and defending champion Will Jansen in his final, the 17 year old coming from 4-2 down in both sets to win 7-5, 6-4, the first sets dropped by Jansen during the week.
Pow’s victory means that the Loughborough based teenager has now won national singles titles in three age groups, Under 12s, Under 14 and now Under 18s.
“It feels good seeing my name on the trophy,” said Pow, who also defeated the second seeded, Portsmouth based player, Louis Bowden in the semis. “It was tough playing outside after playing our last two matches indoors and Will started off strong. I went 4-2 down in both sets but managed to come back to win.”
The National Tennis Centre proved to be an inspirational venue for the Championships, which is preparing to host the Under 16 event which begins next Tuesday. It certainly seemed to inspire Pow.
“When you walk around this place and Joe Salisbury strolls past you, it’s crazy,” he said
That view was echoed by the LTA’s Men’s tennis manager, Martin Weston.
“To be around the NTC in a week when a lot of our players are here and to walk past the US Open trophies won by Emma Raducanu and Joe Salisbury every morning is an inspirational experience for our junior players. When we started the main draw on Tuesday, it felt like a tour event.”