Morpeth’s Elena Baughman-Saunders admitted lifting the winners’ trophy was the icing on the cake after finally getting the chance to play at SW19 as part of the HSBC Road to Wimbledon National 14 and Under Challenge Finals.
The 12-year-old Morpeth Tennis Club and Cramlington Tennis Club starlet has often dreamt about starring on the famous Wimbledon lawn courts, imagining one day she would get the chance.
And her opportunity came recently, having booked herself a spot at SW19 after being successful in her county finals.
She missed the opportunity to enter the main draw but bounced back in style to progress all the way to the final against Sarah Males in the consolation competition.
It proved to be an entertaining affair but Baughman-Saunders held her nerve to win 6-1 6-0 for a victory she rated as the best of her career.
“I think I played really well in that match, and in every match I played all week.”
And the Newminster Middle School pupil received her trophy from former British No. 1 and HSBC Tournament Ambassador Tim Henman.
“Unfortunately the first match I played I lost, but to come back and win the consolation tournament is brilliant and I played well overall.
“It’s amazing to be able to call myself a champion here at Wimbledon, and the experience of playing here has been really good.
“I never thought I’d get to play here, and to win any final here makes me ecstatic.
“I feel like I’m a proper tennis player now, and I’m still excited to be here. I think I’ll have that feeling for a long time and it will make me work harder.
“Playing competitions like this you learn that it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, whether it be the top seed or anyone else, you’ve got to give it your all and try your best.
“I got to meet Tim Henman as well, and it was really inspiring to see him here and doing the coaching session.
“He told us all that we need to work as hard as possible, and really try to get the most out of the hours that we get with our coaches.
“He’s definitely right, and I’ll be taking that away and working on it to improve.”
Elena was able to play in the county finals because a local tournament took place at Carlisle Park.
Henman spent time with the players, signed autographs, and posed for photos with the finalists and insisted he was impressed with the standard on show this year at SW19.
“There’s 20,000 kids every year with the Road to Wimbledon and it’s great to see how the standard has improved over the years,” said Henman, a four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist.
“There’s some really good young players. It’s a great week here but it’s then a lot longer than that with the process of playing in their local areas and regionally and coming through.
“It’s a great carrot for the youngsters to realise they’ve got this opportunity of coming to play at Wimbledon.”
The HSBC Road to Wimbledon National 14 & Under Challenge is the UK’s largest national junior grass court tournament and forms part of HSBC’s investment in the stars of the future.