Who inspired these stars to get into tennis?

Wimbledon has seen countless legends forged on its lawns over the years.

With American 15-year-old Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff having had a fairy tale week at the tournament before being knocked out by Simona Halep, it doesn’t look like this will stop any time soon.

But everyone has to start somewhere, and sometimes all it takes is a little nudge by the right person to set you on the path to being a world champion.

We spoke to some all-time greats about who inspired them to pick up a racquet.

These tennis stars told us who inspired them.

For lots of the stars we spoke to, it was a family affair. Andrew Castle, a former UK number one tennis player and now a TV and radio presenter, said it was all thanks to his older brother David. Andrew was apparently David’s practice dummy for every sport under the sun.

He said: “He always made me the goalkeeper in football, I was the wicket keeper and ball fetcher in cricket… if he wanted to tickle somebody which is like torture, that was me.”

So naturally, David became Andrew’s tennis opponent, which kick-started his love of the sport, and he said for that he’d be “forever grateful” to his brother.

For Tracy Austin, the former American number one, it was her mum (or should we say mom).

She said: “My mum loved tennis and she took up tennis after having her fourth child, I’m the fifth, so it was just in time for her passion to be transferred to me.”

It would have been hard for her to avoid it really; Tracy’s mum got a job at a tennis club and Tracy apparently spent almost every minute of every day there, so became a tennis-nut practically by default.

Wimbledon legend Boris Becker agreed family and environment can play a massive part in developing a love for the sport, and that his parents’ enthusiasm for tennis, football, skiing and “god knows what else” certainly helped him.

He said him and his older sister were because of this introduced to tennis from a very early age, and have benefited “all their lives”.

Others were inspired by the trailblazers that came before them. National treasure and Henman Hill’s namesake Tim Henman said his family gave him the opportunity to experience the sport from a young age. His mum took him to Wimbledon at the age of six, where he saw his hero, Björn Borg.

Borg won his first Wimbledon title in 1976, and kept winning - for another four consecutive years. He was a tennis titan, and for Henman, he was his “biggest inspiration”.

Annabel Croft also considers Borg to be one of her heroes, calling him “a real rockstar” of the sport.

Another player she “greatly admires” is former American World No. 1 Chris Evert. In 1984, the year Croft won the Wimbledon Junior Singles title and Evert made the Women’s final, Croft said she “ended up playing” her idol at Wimbledon Court One, in a match she described as “pretty special”.

Tim Henman
Tim Henman reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon four times in his career, and was the first male player to do so since Roger Taylor in the 1970s.
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