NEWQUAY’S Rachael Gump may not have lifted silverware recently on the manicured lawns of Wimbledon – but she still enjoyed an unforgettable experience at SW19, writes Sportsbeat's ben Hart.

Gump, 23, who plays out of Heron Tennis Centre, featured in the national finals at the Play Your Way to Wimbledon event, powered by Vodafone – the largest individual mass participation tennis competition in the UK.

2023 saw the competition open up to more players, with three disability events split between Visual Impairment, Learning Disability and Wheelchair tennis categories, as well as an Adult Doubles pathway.

She was unable to reach the latter stages of the women’s wheelchair event, but she was still thrilled to attend Wimbledon and revealed it was an experience they will never forget.

Gump said: “I lost my first match but it was really close so I feel very good about how I played.

“It’s such a cool experience, I’m just trying to take it all in it’s really amazing.

“I’ve never played on grass before so it’s hard work but it’s a really good experience.

“It’s a lot harder to push and timing the bounces with the ball, sometimes it can bounce a bit funny.

“We took pictures with Alfie (Hewitt) and Gordon (Reid) which was really cool.”

The competition looks to inspire the next generation of tennis talent; allowing junior players to follow in the footsteps of their heroes and compete for a chance to play on Wimbledon’s iconic courts.

Formerly known as the Road to Wimbledon, the competition launched in March and is delivered in partnership by the LTA, The All England Lawn Tennis Club, and Vodafone.

This year’s tournament will deliver over 10,000 playing opportunities across singles and doubles competitions in 800 venues.

From 2023, the LTA and The All England Lawn Tennis Club are planning for the competition to expand further, through the introduction of additional age groups and disability categories, which Vodafone is proud to support, whilst helping to encourage more kids to pick up a tennis racket.

Former British No.1 Laura Robson was in attendance to cheer on the youngsters at SW19 and offer her experience and advice.

She said: “It’s just so cool to get the chance to play on these courts at Wimbledon. I still get a buzz every time I walk out there, so I can’t imagine how they’re feeling.

“I played Road to Wimbledon when I was much younger and I’m still friends with some of the people that I played against.

“It’s amazing to see how much it’s grown over the years and with the new categories this year it’s bigger and better.

“Growing the game involves letting people enjoy themselves on court and letting themselves have as much fun as possible so they want to come back and do it all over again next year.”

PAR – Play Your Way to Wimbledon, powered by Vodafone, is the UK’s largest individual mass participation tennis competition that gives players an opportunity to follow in their heroes’ footsteps and compete at Wimbledon. 

The All England Club and LTA are proud to partner with Vodafone to expand the competition to more players in 2023 with an Adult Doubles pathway, alongside Visual Impairment, Learning Disability and Wheelchair tennis categories.