Hannah Klugman, 15, misses out on Wimbledon main draw after qualifying defeat

One strikingly long row of makeshift grass tennis courts in the glistening surroundings of a south London public park. The £40m National Tennis Centre – with the luxury of year-round tennis courts – overlooking the scene, up the hill. Players on the periphery below the top-100 in the world slugging it out for one of 16 spots at The Championships next week. A serene environment, save for the agony and ecstasy of the players on court: welcome to the final day of Wimbledon qualifying.

It is a uniqueness to Wimbledon that qualifying does not take place at the site of the tournament, in order to save the grass courts wear and tear ahead of the fortnight. Instead, it takes place a few miles away in Roehampton at the aptly named Wimbledon Qualifying and Community Sports Centre, formerly the Bank of England Sports Centre. Look closer and you’ll see the likes of David Goffin and Richard Gasquet – both former top-10 players – grinding it out over the final round.

But amid that grind, there is no room for pedigree and stature: both lost in four sets.

French player Maxime Janvier, aged 27, world ranking 170, summed up best what a run through qualifying can mean to a player. Victorious in four sets on Thursday, he screamed, “la maison, la maison!” (The house, the house!) after the final point. The £60,000 cheque on offer for a first-round participant can, for some, make or break their seasons, both on court and financially.

Most eyes on Thursday, however, were on 15-year-old British star Hannah Klugman who, five years on from Coco Gauff’s surreal journey through qualifying to the fourth round at the same age, was eyeing a spot in the main draw next week.

Klugman, who lives just a few miles from the All England Club, won the prestigious 18-and-under Orange Bowl tournament in Florida last December – the de facto junior world championships – and reached the final of the girls’ doubles last year at Wimbledon. This year, she is coupling up her junior Grand Slam schedule with a few ITF events, embarking slowly on her journey to senior level. The step up is undoubtedly daunting.

And on Thursday, in the unique 770-capacity setting of qualifying’s Court 1, it was a step too far for Klugman. Up against former top-50 player Alycia Parks and her ferociously powerful game – Parks recorded a 129mph serve at the US Open three years ago, a joint-tournament record with Venus Williams – Klugman struggled to weave her way into the rallies.

When Parks found her range at the back of the court, she was brutally dismissive of a player ranked 502 places lower in Klugman. The Brit, cheered on by her sisters and extended family, fought hard but eventually succumbed in straight sets, 6-3 6-3.

The overwhelming sense, though, is that she’ll be back. Likely not here, though. In the immediacy, she’s one to watch in two weeks in the Wimbledon junior tournament and, should her ascent continue, a main draw wild-card is possible in 12 months’ time.

The likes of Katie Boulter and Laura Robson sent their well-wishes last night, but Klugman is all too aware that the road ahead is long. With three years technically left in junior tennis, there’s no rush.

Hannah Klugman, 15, missed out on a spot in the Wimbledon main draw on Thursday (Getty)
Hannah Klugman, 15, missed out on a spot in the Wimbledon main draw on Thursday (Getty)
Former top-50 player Alycia Parks was victorious, 6-3, 6-3 (Getty)
Former top-50 player Alycia Parks was victorious, 6-3, 6-3 (Getty)

“My coach keeps me grounded,” she said afterwards. “It’s a long journey and I’m not getting ahead of myself. I’ve learned so much from this week, seeing the level and knowing I can compete with it.

“I’m disappointed with today, so close and yet so far away at the same time. She was serving amazing, I don’t think I’ve ever played someone with such a big game. I couldn’t get into the rallies really.

“I’ve tried to stay off my phone [this week]. I’ve been in my own little bubble but it’s been amazing to have the support. It’s not normal to have those moments, I enjoyed this week so much. But it’s just the beginning.”

Just as Klugman’s final round tussle was racing away from her, compatriot Sonay Kartal ensured there would be at least one British qualifier at Wimbledon next week.

The 22-year-old became just the third British woman in 25 years to qualify for the main draw with a 6-3, 6-1 win over fifth seed Erika Andreeva on Court 2. Amarni Banks, the only other Brit in action on Thursday with no men through to the third round, succumbed 6-3, 6-0 to Canada’s Marina Stakusic.