Hackney teenager aims to continue her tennis education at Junior Wimbledon Championships

Hackney prospect Lauryn John-Baptiste

Hackney prospect Lauryn John-Baptiste - Credit: Archant

Hackney prospect Lauryn John-Baptiste could well be on her way to Wimbledon after winning the International Tennis Tournament in Nottingham.

The 15-year-old won the Grade 4 Under-18 event in fine style, beating Slovakian Timea Pavlickova in the quarters, sixth seed Eliz Maloney in the semis and routing the No 2 seed Sandra Orteval of Sweden 6-1, 6-1 in the final.

John-Baptiste is bracing herself for one of the most intense periods of her life, as swotting up for her GCSEs this summer gives way to a challenge of a different kind in SW19.

“Luckily, my last exam is on June 12, so if I get a wildcard to the Junior Wimbledon Championships, I won’t have to miss any!” John-Baptiste told the Gazette.

“It would be very exciting, but I would view it as an opportunity more than anything else.

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“I’m only 15 so it would be a great experience; this is where the best professional players started – hopefully I wouldn’t be too overwhelmed. I’ve been to Wimbledon a couple of times before as a spectator, but to be there as a competitor would be a dream come true.”

John-Baptiste is a pupil at Talbot Heath School in Bournemouth, a boarding school that specialises in providing excellent tennis facilities on the south coast.

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The singles championship in the Midlands supplemented her four other doubles titles achieved in Great Britain, Montenegro and Belgium, and John-Baptiste believes her ITT victory is only the start of brighter things to come.

“Normally I get really nervous towards the final, but this time I was really composed even before my match,” she said.

“Everything went according to plan. Despite the winning margin [in the final], I think it was a hard match.

“I will be playing at the Bank of England tournament in the build-up to qualifying for the Wimbledon Junior Championships, and I think I stand a great chance of making it through this year.

“Right now, I just have to focus on my studies and try not to get too excited about what might be, but I’m still getting 12 hours of training in a week, so I’ll be prepared.”

John-Baptiste, who shared a court in 2009 with young British tennis stars Laura Robson and Heather Watson as part of an LTA coaching programme, travelled with the Talbot Heath team that finished fourth out of 14 participants at the Qatar World Schools Finals event in March, underlining her huge potential.

Lauryn’s proud mother, Julie Ronan, is fully supportive of her daughter’s dreams to not only become Great Britain’s No 1 female tennis player, but also to be within the top 20 worldwide within the next five years.

Ronan said: “Lauryn followed her sister Simone’s lead growing up.

“She was only three and a half when she joined in with her elder sister at the Hackney City Tennis Club and the coaches spotted something special in her. She then won an under-eights tournament held at Clissold Park when only four, and hasn’t really looked back since.

“We’re delighted that she now has an outside chance of being given a wildcard for the Junior Championships at Wimbledon, but it’s not ideal that we’ll only find out on the day in June!

“Winning [in Nottingham] is a great achievement for her, especially as we’re struggling to pay for her to compete in as many international competitions as possible to improve her experience and her rankings. I can understand why people say it´s a rich man´s game!”

Having won several age-group events, John-Baptiste is now competing in the under-18s category as part of the International Tennis Federation with the aim of getting more experience under her belt.

She is regarded as one of the best players at the Bournemouth academy, alongside Jodie Burrage and Esther Adeshina, and having already been head-hunted for a full scholarship at a Florida University, she intends to pursue her dream of moving to the States to continue her education come August.

“I think an American university would be the right environment for me,” John-Baptiste added.

“I really like team environments, and the focus over there in the States is always around competing as part of a wider team.

“It would be a good opportunity for me to go out there.

“A lot of players take this route of going abroad and then coming back home a few years down the line. I’m keen to pursue this option, but I’m trying not to look too far ahead.”

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