Wimbledon: Mimi Xu is rising star of British tennis and trained with Emma Raducanu

Last year, the nation marvelled at 18-year-old Emma Raducanu as the British tennis prodigy stormed into the second week of Wimbledon and then, defying the longest of odds, won the US Open in New York.

This summer, an even younger rising star in the women’s game could well steal the limelight and some of Raducanu’s thunder.

14-year-old Mimi Xu is already causing ripples among those tennis fans in the know.

Three challenging qualifying matches stand between the teenager, from Swansea in south Wales, and the distinction of being the youngest British player to compete at Wimbledon in the post-1968 Open era and possibly, if the sketchy records can be trusted, in 100 years.

Annabel Croft was 15 when she won through to the main draw in 1981 and American Coco Gauff was just 15 years and 122 days old when she won three qualifiers at Roehampton in 2019 and announced herself to the world.

Xu would be even younger should she make the SW19 Slam, which begins next Monday, but it’s fair to say little fazes a girl who appears to combine remarkable sporting, musical and academic prowess.

Tall for her age, powerful and well accustomed to taking on more physically mature opponents, some four years older, in junior tournaments across the United Kingdom, Xu isn’t in qualifying simply to make up the numbers.

Mimi Xu, 14, is regarded as a promising talent in British tennis and is aiming to become the youngest player from this country to play at Wimbledon in a century

Last year, the teenager from Swansea played at Wimbledon in the girls' tournament - this time she is three qualifying matches away from the main draw

Last year, the teenager from Swansea played at Wimbledon in the girls’ tournament – this time she is three qualifying matches away from the main draw

Xu started playing tennis at the age of just three and is now tipped for big things in the sport

Xu started playing tennis at the age of just three and is now tipped for big things in the sport

At last week’s Ilkley Trophy in West Yorkshire, she was disappointed to be beaten 6-2, 6-2 by the former US Open semi-finalist Yanina Wickmayer, who is more than twice her age.

Let’s not forget that Mimi is a Year 10 student, who is set to take her GCSEs in Mathematics and Spanish at Olchfa Secondary School this summer, and the rest next year.

It’s clear her talents extend far beyond the court. Her Twitter account – run by her parents – features tennis pics interspersed with videos of her recitals on the piano and the violin. She has achieved grade seven in both. 

Her place in Wimbledon qualifying was secured when she claimed the Under-18 British title well ahead of her years back in April.

You only have to go back three years to find Twitter pictures of Xu posing on Centre Court as part of a ‘first taste of Wimbledon’ tour organised by the LTA. 

Next week, she could be playing there.

Later in that tournament, she was left thrilled after champion players Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep signed a tennis ball for her.

Xu poses for a picture at Wimbledon on an LTA tour of the iconic venue three years ago

Xu poses for a picture at Wimbledon on an LTA tour of the iconic venue three years ago

She competed at Wimbledon in the girls' draw last year - but could now be in the main event

She competed at Wimbledon in the girls’ draw last year – but could now be in the main event

Like Raducanu – whose father is Romanian and mother is Chinese – Xu is a British junior player from an ethnic minority background.

Her mother Wendy, a retail store manager, and father Tony, a digital engineer, are both Chinese and met when studying at Swansea University.

The family still live in the city and Xu was first introduced to the sport at the Swansea Tennis and Squash Club aged only three.

She then moved onto a development programme under the guidance of coach Fran Lewis at Swansea Tennis Centre. 

As with Raducanu, who played at Bromley Tennis Centre in Kent growing up, having ready access to good facilities has handsomely paid off.

Naturally, Xu was inspired by Raducanu’s astonishing success in New York last September and recently hit with the British No 1 for an hour-and-a-half at the National Tennis Academy in Loughborough.

Xu claims that she has been buoyed by fellow British teenager Emma Raducanu's success

Xu claims that she has been buoyed by fellow British teenager Emma Raducanu’s success

Having achieved plenty of success in junior competitions, Xu will now step up to senior events

Having achieved plenty of success in junior competitions, Xu will now step up to senior events

‘It’s been really eye-opening,’ Xu said last week. ‘Seeing that if she can win like that, we can do that one day, too.

‘It was really fun being in the moment and she was really nice, really encouraging. That helped me.’

Xu has already played at Wimbledon in last year’s girls’ singles and doubles events but this time around she is in qualification for a place in the main draw.

In last year’s singles, she was knocked out by Polina Kudermetova, 18, having been handed a wildcard into the draw. She made it through to the second round of the doubles before suffering defeat. 

A year prior to that, Xu won the Teen Tennis competition in Bolton, an event previously won by Andy Murray, Gauff and Justine Henin.

Given the success three-time Slam winner Murray went on to achieve, that could well be a good omen.  

Mimi Xu can qualify for Wimbledon aged just 14, a year younger than Annabel Croft was in 1981

Mimi Xu can qualify for Wimbledon aged just 14, a year younger than Annabel Croft was in 1981

As well as potentially play at Wimbledon this summer Xu will take two of her GCSE exams

As well as potentially play at Wimbledon this summer Xu will take two of her GCSE exams

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