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By Oli Dickson Jefford at Wimbledon
Hannah Klugman grew up just five minutes away from the All England and realised a lifelong dream by making her Wimbledon debut.
At just 13 years of age the Londoner was one of the youngest players in the Girls’ singles draw, having received a wildcard from the All England Club.
For as long as she can remember Klugman has played tennis, and understandably the tournament has a special place in her heart.
She said: “I was probably about three when I could actually hold a racket. My sisters used to play when I was younger so they brought me into the game, my mum used to play as well - still plays - and I used to hit with them on the side of the court.
“It’s massively special. I’ve been here every year watching and for me to play here this year is insane. I literally live five minutes away.
“I remember watching Simona Halep versus Serena Williams on Centre Court. It was incredible, the intensity, the movement.
“I feel like it makes every moment more special when you’re here. Walking through the gates it was like: ‘you’ve been here before, but you’re playing now.’ When I was younger I didn’t just play tennis, I played a lot of other sports but my main focus was always on tennis.
“I’ve always loved it, it’s been a sport I’ve always played.”
In the opening round of the event Klugman was beaten 6-3 6-1 by Li Yu-yun, a qualifier five years older than her.
Naturally there was some disappointment, but the teenager revelled in the experience - and the home crowd atmosphere.
“It was great out there. I’m a bit disappointed with how I played but my opponent played a very good game,” added Klugman.
“Hopefully in years to come I can play better - it’s just a learner for me, I’m so young. To get that opportunity to play is insane.
“I’m proud I could mentally keep going to put up a fight out there, even though my game wasn’t at its best. To keep fighting, that’s always the best.
“She’s just more experienced, been on the big courts more than me. To get this experience right now, to play at Wimbledon is probably the biggest thing for me.
“My whole family was here, it was insane. My school friends were here. Everyone was just very excited for me.
“It was insane. The atmosphere was absolutely incredible. I’m just sad that I couldn’t put my best game out there, but I hope I can learn from it a lot. It’s a big experience for me.
“I’m so surprised at the massive support, but it was very good.”
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