“So is Federer a future Wimbledon champion? Probably not unless he learns to vary his tactics. He has been brought up on clay and it showed, his trips to the net being about as frequent as a blue moon. Still if he only becomes the next Ivan Lendl (eight Grand Slams) he will be thanking his lucky stars.” That was Guy Hodgson writing in the Independent after Roger Federer had won the Wimbledon boy’s title in 1998.
At least Hodgson had history on his side. Since 1975, when the junior events were raised to Championship status, just five of the 68 winners in the boys and girls events have become Open champion. They are:
Pat Cash (boy’s champion in 1982 and men’s champion in 1987)
Stefan Edberg (1983 and 1988 & 1990)
Roger Federer (1998 and 2003-2007 & 2009)
Martina Hingis (1994 and 1997
Amelie Mauresmo (1996 and 2006)
There are some other results worth mentioning: Bjorn Borg won the boy’s title in 1972 and won five Wimbledon’s between 1976 and 1980; Todd Woodbridge was a junior runner-up in 1989 and won nine doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles and Mark Philippoussis lost the 1994 boy’s final and the 2003 men’s final.
But the reality is that few players parlay junior success at Wimbledon into adult glory?
Pat Rafter, a famous late bloomer, addressed the issue in Australian tennis in a 2007 letter. “Tennis Australia, in my view, keep the junior players playing junior tennis for far too long. We see too many former No. 1 juniors and junior grand slam winners not making the transition into the men’s game,” Rafter wrote.
“Their maturity is of a junior, their game is junior and their mentality is junior and that equals being a could-have-been or a should-have-been.”
So that covers burn-out, injuries and the players who never realise their potential because they don’t have a growth spurt. Plus, not all of the senior Grand Slam champions played at the junior events; Serena and Venus Williams never entered a junior grand slam.
Have you got an explanation?