British teenager, Harry Searle from Wolverhampton has ended a 61 year wait for a Junior Boys’ title winner at Wimbledon, by beating the Russian Yaroslav Demin on Sunday 17th July on Number One Court, becoming the first British winner since Stanley Matthews in 1962.

Harry Searle- Boys Champion 2023

Matthews, was the son of the legendary Stoke City, Blackpool and England footballer, of the same name, known as ‘The Wizard of the Dribble’, who in a career spanning 32 years played in over 700 professional matches, including 54 times for England between 1934 and 1957.

Stanley Matthews Senior 1953

From the age of seven Matthews Junior followed in his father’s footsteps and played football, but all too often he was fouled by bigger more aggressive boys ‘Who’, noted Matthews speaking in 2015, ‘Just wanted to say that they had stopped Stanley Matthews’.

He would go on to have a successful junior career, which peaked in 1962 with his win at Wimbledon. He was also British Junior Champion between 1960 and 1962, a title also held by Welsh Rugby Legend J.P.R.Williams in 1966, before he decided to focus on his Rugby and Medical careers.

Stanley Matthews Junior 1962

As a senior, Matthews played in all four Grand Slams and his career highlight was a win against the Romanian Ilie Nasatase in Paris in 1972, but he was never able to replicate his form as a junior and retired in 1973.

Stanley Matthews -Boys Champion 1962

Searle 17, who is also the first British junior champion since Laura Robson in 2008, plans to move into the professional game

‘The plan is to still do my A levels’ he said,’ How easy that will be, I don’t know, with all the travelling, but if the tennis is going well enough, I might not need to do them!’

He was backed by an army of fans all wearing ‘Henry’s Barmy Army’ T- shirts and the teenager succeeded where Jack Draper and Liam Broady have failed in recent years by winning the final.

Coming from Wolverhampton, Seale’s love of his hometown team Wolverhampton Wanderers has been cited in the last week and the hope is that he will be allowed to parade the trophy at Molineux  at some point in the forthcoming season.

‘I think there’s the jump to the men’s game’

said Searle after his historic win.

Harry Searle 2023

However, former girl’s winner in 1984 and ex British Number One Annabel Croft believes that Searle must avoid ‘her big mistake!’

Writing in The Times on the 18th July Croft who retired at the age of 21, confessed that, ‘

My biggest mistake was not understanding that it was a learning curve. We tennis players have big egos and your happiness depends on winning. My confidence was knocked quickly and it’s hard not to let that affect how you feel and play. You have to separate results from what you are trying to do. If you are aiming to improve as a player and view it as a challenge, balancing confidence with testing yourself against higher ranked opponents, that’s much healthier. Keep your feet firmly on the ground, seek ways to improve as a player and have the right people around you’.

She went on to say that,

‘I have the benefit of hindsight now and I wish someone had told me not to rush everything and believe I had to win every match. I had hit tennis balls from when I was very young and I never understood life outside tennis, which would have benefited me!’

Annabel Croft 1984

Only four men have gone on to win the Men’s Singles having first won the junior title. Bjorn Borg, Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg and most recently Roger Federer in 1998.

Roger Federer 1998

Most fall short, but Searle is confident that he has the ability to succeed at the highest level.

‘ I’ll continue to work hard and hopefully play at the sort of level I did today in the men’s game’, he said after the match.

However the transition goes, he will always have the memory of his historic triumph at Wimbledon!

Article © of Bill Williams