Twelve months on from Jay Clarke’s shock run to the last 16 of the men’s doubles at Wimbledon, British tennis legend Tim Henman has warned against an over-reliance on the wildcard system.
Clarke and his partner Marcus Willis received a wildcard at the All England Club last year where they stunned defending champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in round two with a spectacular five-set triumph.
The 19-year-old Clarke will play in the main draw of a Grand Slam singles event for the first time at SW19 in July after being handed a wildcard by the All England Club – with veteran Latvian Ernests Gulbis lying in wait in round one.
Henman now hopes Derby’s Clarke can seize the day, like he did a year ago, to make the most of the unique opportunity afforded to him during the grass-court season.
“At the end of the day if you’re good enough you won’t need wildcards. This isn’t about the same players receiving wildcards year after year,” he explained.
“If that’s the case it emphasises the standards are not good enough.
“The wildcard has always been there for players coming back from injury or whose ranking can’t them in but don’t get me wrong they are a luxury.
“If players get those opportunities you really want them to take advantage because they’re playing up a level, the points and prize money is bigger than they’re accustomed to.
“We want to give these younger players the opportunity to experience a higher level of tennis, if they experience that and win matches it can fast-track them up the rankings.
“It’s a great chance because a lot of the British players are lucky at this time of year to receive those bonuses.”
Henman was speaking at the 2018 Jaguar Championships at David Lloyd Royal Berkshire, the winners of which took home fantastic prizes including Wimbledon Centre Court tickets.
The competition saw 1,668 players from 417 teams compete with the finals taking place at David Lloyd Royal Berkshire on June 9 and 10.
And with Wimbledon just days away, Henman hopes British No.1s Kyle Edmund and Jo Konta can step up and show the way for young home-grown talent like Clarke, with Andy Murray coming back to fitness.
“In any area, it’s important to have role models, we’re very fortunate to have arguably the best and biggest tennis tournament in the world at Wimbledon,” he added.
“But it’s important to have those British storylines to go with it. Andy Murray has led that amazingly well for the last decade but he’s obviously had his injury troubles.
“Kyle Edmund has stepped up and played some really good tennis this year getting into the top 20 in the world.
“Jo Konta maybe hasn’t played as well as she would have liked, but she’s still a great player with great opportunities coming up.
“It’ll be really good if any of the British players can have a good run over the grass-court season.”
Tim Henman was speaking at The Jaguar Championships as part of Jaguar’s partnership with David Lloyd Clubs. Visit http://www.jaguar.co.uk/jaguar-range/f-pace/index.html to find out more about the F-PACE, the Official Car of The Championships, Wimbledon