Berkhamsted’s rising tennis star Joel Pierleoni struggled to contain his delight after going one better than Andy Murray by lifting a trophy on the famous grass courts of Wimbledon this year.
Joel was competing in the HSBC Road to Wimbledon national 14-and-under challenge – the UK’s largest grass court tournament involving more than 10,000 youngsters each year, including Hemel Hempstead’s Sophia Hezzone.
And after triumphing at the previous regional finals, the 14-year-old Joel, who will be going to Chesham Grammar School in September, can now lay claim to being one of the best in the country in his age category after winning last week’s national doubles finals at the iconic SW19 venue.
Not only did he and Harry Lazell manage to beat Louis Davey and Alexander Knox-Jones in a thrilling tie-break finale on Saturday, but Joel also got to meet former British number one Tim Henman.
After impressing on the court, Joel, who plays at Berkhamsted Elite Tennis Academy, said he felt the opportunity to gain grass-court experience will serve him well in the future.
He added: “The first set was really good, we lost our concentration a bit in the second and they upped their game a lot. We made some good shots and lifted our intensity in the tie-break, so it all came good in the end.
“This was my first time playing here in a competition and it was great, I never play on grass and the atmosphere and organisation have been amazing.
“I didn’t imagine we’d win because it’s neither of our favourite surfaces, but it feels great.”
The HSBC Road to Wimbledon national 14-and-under challenge forms part of HSBC’s investment in grassroots tennis, an area of the sport the official banking partner of the Wimbledon championships has been supporting since 2008.
HSBC also supports the Wimbledon Foundation through a ticket resale scheme – with the bank matching donations made by the public.
Frequent Wimbledon semi-finalist Henman was on hand to present the trophies after Saturday’s finals and he admitted he had been impressed with what he had seen.
Henman added: “I’ve been coming to this event for the past ten years, the enthusiasm of the kids is always the same but every year the standard gets better and better.
“The ethos of the event is about grassroots; getting more and more people playing the game, but we’ve also seen some brilliant tennis.
“For them this is a great experience, this can hopefully inspire some of them to want to come here in the future and that it’s not just a pipe dream.
“Our 2014 winner, Siddhant Banthia, was at Junior Wimbledon this year, we’re not only giving them the opportunity but the belief that if they work hard, they can go places.”
This recent success for Joel comes on the back of a huge European doubles win recently.
Joel and his doubles partner Jack Pinnington Jones become the first British pair to win a major European crown in 22 years when they bagged the U14 Euro Championships in Most, Czech Republic.