After his triumph at junior Wimbledon and a VIP visit to his favourite football club, Henry Searle found himself blown back down to earth on Tuesday.
A windswept, almost autumnal morning at Roehampton saw him narrowly lose in his first match back, in the hard school of the professional Futures circuit where it all starts for those aiming for the sunlit uplands of the ATP Tour.
Playing Johannus Monday, one of the best players on the US college circuit and already nearly a top 200 doubles player, the boys’ winner at SW19 of barely two weeks ago was beaten 7-6 3-6 6-3 in the first round of this week’s £20,000 tournament.
While geographically close to the All England Club it was a world away from Court Number One, where thousands cheered him on to beat Russia’s Yaroslav Demin in the boys’ final.
A handful of coaches and onlookers were alongside Court Six at the National Tennis Centre, staffed by an umpire and a solitary line judge. At this level players are expected to pick up their own balls and, indeed, any of those that stray over from the concurrent match immediately next door.
Henry Searle picked up the boys’ Wimbledon title last month by beating Yaroslav Demin in straight sets
Searle, a massive Wolverhampton Wanderers fan, was honoured by the first-team squad at the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground
Searle, 17, has played a few of these already and knew what to expect. He has deliberately tried to keep things grounded since becoming the first homegrown boys’ champion at Wimbledon since 1962.
He has been back at Wolverhampton Lawn Tennis Club, but mainly to train rather than party. His one taste of the high life was being invited to a more widely known local sporting establishment, Wolverhampton Wanderers, who he fervently supports.
Manager Julen Lopetegui was particularly interested in how he plays lefthanded, despite being right handed at most things, just like Spain’s most celebrated player, Rafael Nadal.
‘I got to meet the team and staff, got shown around the training ground,’ he said. ‘They were very welcoming, and I met my favourite player, Pedro Neto, it was pretty cool. It seems like a few of them are interested in tennis.
‘It was nice to be back home and back at my club, and I’ve enjoyed being around friends and family. Life hasn’t changed and I want to keep it that way.’
Johannus Monday defeated Searle 7-6 3-6 6-3 in the latters first game back since winning the Wimbledon boys title
He understands that there is little to be gained by basking in junior glories, and next week will be at Aldershot for another professional tournament on the lowest rung of the tour.
At these kind of events he will encounter more experienced opponents like Monday, a 21 year-old from Hull. Or George Loffhagen, playing on the neighbouring court, who is back at the coal face after wildcard entries into Eastbourne and Wimbledon.
Monday is another tall lefthander with a huge serve, who made the second round in the main Wimbledon doubles draw last month.
In difficult conditions they produced a high quality of tennis that bodes well for their prospects. Searle needed stave off a slew of break points, but he served for the first set at 6-5 before losing the tiebreak 7-5.
‘I’m back to trying to get better each day and we will see where that takes me,’ said Searle, for whom the US college scene is one option in his development. ‘It was tough today but the more matches I play at this level the more I will get used to the higher standard. Next week I’ve got Aldershot, after that it’s off to the US Open juniors. I will play a mix of juniors and Futures events for the rest of the year. That was always the plan, and at the end of it we will see what we do from there.’
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