Wimbledon juniors don't all become stars

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iol spt pic Hingis 1997 Wimbledon ALLSPORT 1997 Wimbledon Ladies singles champion Martina Hingis of Switzerland with the trophy. File photo: Clive Brunskill/ALLSPORT

London - Winning a Wimbledon junior title should, in theory, be the springboard for a life at the top in tennis - but few manage to convert such early success into a stellar career.

For every top 10 player on the All England Club junior honours board, there are several more circuit journeymen - and others who sank without trace.

The last to back up those titles with the real thing at Wimbledon were 1998 boys' champion Roger Federer and 1996 girls' champion Amelie Mauresmo.

Since the Open Era began in 1968, Bjorn Borg, Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg and Martina Hingis are the only others to have done the Wimbledon double.

But what of the rest?

While the 13-year-old Hingis was winning the 1994 girls' title, just months before embarking on a glittering professional career that would yield seven Grand Slams, fortunes were drastically different for the boys' winner that year.

“I stood next to her at the champions' dinner, when she didn't speak English at 13,” said Scott Humphries, reflecting on the events of 20 years ago.

The American, who beat future Wimbledon and US Open runner-up Mark Philippoussis in the boys' final, never won a match on the ATP singles tour.

With elbow surgery on his 21st birthday forcing him into a doubles career, he played on for eight years, winning three tour titles. Humphries later coached Mardy Fish and Jelena Jankovic.

He is now a branch manager for the Coldwell Banker real estate firm in Tampa, Florida, with 85 agents to look after.

“I don't know if you can compare Martina Hingis to me. She had a much better tennis career! I'm not going to dispute that at all,” Humphries told AFP.

“Would I have loved to have had that career? Absolutely. Do I regret the way my path went? No.”

Back then, it was somewhat easier for girls like Hingis to compete on the pro tour because technically-gifted youngsters were not going to be overpowered, unlike boys entering the men's circuit.

“You do have to learn to take some bumps and bruises,” said Humphries.

“The junior game is different to the pro game in speed, power and agility,” he said.

“There's a learning curve to be had and as a very successful junior, even at Challenger rank playing against top 200 players, it is going to be difficult.”

Winning the juniors, it seems, is a haphazard guide to future Grand Slam champions in the making.

Of the first five Wimbledon boys' champions this century, France's Gael Monfils and Nicolas Mahut are established names on the tour.

Meanwhile Florin Mergea, now ranked 1 183, has only ever played six tour level singles matches, though he reached the semi finals of this year's French Open doubles.

Todd Reid has been unranked since 2010 and the ATP does not even have a picture of Roman Valent, who played just one tour-level match - and lost.

The last 10 Wimbledon boys' winners have an current average ranking of 138, while the last 10 girls' champions have an average of 185.

Britain's Annabel Croft, who lifted the 1984 Wimbledon girls' title, has spoken of the mental difficulty of making the transition up from being a trophy-winning youngster.

“Having been a top junior, I was used to winning - and once you get out on the tour, you start losing,” she told The Guardian newspaper.

“My confidence was getting knocked all the time. I found it really difficult to bounce back from that because it's very hard to deal with.”

There are a few recent Wimbledon junior champions who are surging up the rankings and are worth keeping an eye on at this year's tournament.

The 2011 boys' champion Luke Saville, 20, the Australian world number 237, has come through the qualifiers.

Meanwhile Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, who won the 2012 girls', hit a career high ranking of 12 this month.

She is seen a future top 10 mainstay, as is world number 13 Gregor Dimitrov, the 2008 boys' winner, who won the Queen's warm-up tournament.

Asked if he can join those who have won the boys' and the mens' titles, he said: “We're about to find out.

“Wimbledon has been closer to me and what I have always wanted to achieve, and it's definitely on my list.”

Agnieszka Radwanska, currently ranked fourth in the world, and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki will also be seeking to add a senior Wimbledon title to their earlier junior trophies.

Wimbledon boys' champions since 2000, plus current ranking:

2000: Nicolas Mahut (FRA), 41

2001: Roman Valent (SUI), unranked since 2011

2002: Todd Reid (AUS), unranked since 2010

2003: Florin Mergea (ROM), 1,183

2004: Gael Monfils (FRA), 21

2005: Jeremy Chardy (FRA), 43

2006: Thiemo de Bakker (NED), 143

2007: Donald Young (USA), 69

2008: Grigor Dimitrov (BUL), 13

2009: Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS), 114

2010: Marton Fucsovics (HUN), 191

2011: Luke Saville (AUS), 237

2012: Filip Peliwo (CAN), 242

2013: Gianluigi Quinzi (ITA), 304

Wimbledon girls' champions since 2000, plus current ranking:

2000: Maria Salerni (ARG), unranked since 2009

2001: Angelique Widjaja (INA), unranked since 2006

2002: Vera Dushevina (RUS), 160

2003: Kirsten Flipkens (BEL), 24

2004: Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR), 1,099

2005: Agnieszka Radwanska (POL), 4

2006: Caroline Wozniacki (DEN), 16

2007: Urszula Radwanska (POL), 92

2008: Laura Robson (GBR), 79

2009: Noppawan Lertcheewakarn (THA), 215

2010: Kristyna Pliskova (CZE), 50

2011: Ashleigh Barty (AUS), 205

2012: Eugenie Bouchard (CAN), 13

2013: Belinda Bencic (SUI), 72

Sapa-AFP


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