When Russia’s Maria Sharapova lifted her second French Open tennis title on the red clay in Paris, Pinchbeck baseline battler Lucy Hull (12) was paying close attention.
The Spalding High School student was even more interested when Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki reached the ladies singles final of the US Open Tennis Championships in New York nearly two weeks ago.
But Hull has tasted the tennis limelight herself by winning HSBC Bank’s Road to Wimbledon Girls’ County Consolation tournament at the revered All England Lawn Tennis Club last month.
“It took a few days to sink in because it was very special and very well-organised,” Lucy said.
“I’d never really had all that stuff before, being treated like a tour player with on-site facilities, post-match interviews and a trophy presentation.
“It’s definitely the biggest consolation tournament I’ve won and I’ve not played in anything as big as this before.”
Lucy is a member of Boston Tennis Club where she was first taken by her mum Tracy Hull as a five-year-old the recommendation of a workmate.
“My mum used to work with someone who was very heavily involved with the tennis club and where she was running an open day,” Lucy said.
“Mum brought me along, then I did a couple of training programmes open to children in the Spalding area and went on to do a few free taster sessions before being encouraged to join the club.
“I like playing team sports like hockey, netball and rounders, but tennis is my main sport.”
Lucy started the HSBC Road to Wimbledon by winning three matches to lift her club’s title before going on to win the county title, beating friendly rival Rose Thomas in both finals.
When she finally got to Wimbledon, Lucy found herself among the top 144 boys and girls in Britain who had earned the right to play in the week-long tournament.
She said: “There were 48 girls from different counties around the country and I was in a county box with three other girls, the top two going into the main draw.
“Three of us won two matches in my box but I went into the consolation draw because I’d played more tiebreaks than anyone else.
“In the consolation round, I played five matches to get to the finals where I met Bethany Cole from Cornwall.
“I was really nervous when I went out on the court, just hoping I didn’t make any mistakes because I start to whack the balls out when I have an adrenalin rush.
“But I kept my cool and went 5-1 up in the first set before letting Bethany back in the match a bit.
“I was getting ahead of myself, thinking ‘I can do this’ until it got to 5-4 when I told myself to keep things going.
“The second set was quite close at the beginning and then I thought ‘let’s just finish it.’
“It was amazing to win at Wimbledon and I can now say that I’ve played there and won there.”
Lucy’s winning streak extended into the Lincolnshire Junior County Closed Tennis Championships where she lifted the under-12s title and narrowly lost the under-14s singles and doubles finals.
A week earlier, the 12-year-old carried off the under-12s title at the Hunstanton Tennis Tournament, billed as the biggest of its kind in Britain.
Tracy said: “Lucy keeps trying in the competitions she enters and she does have some success in them.
“But there are a lot of good, full-time girl tennis players out there and Lucy has gradually worked her way up from playing in local events to reaching national competitions.
“She started out in team competitions for Boston Tennis Club then gradually built up her confidence by entering winter tournaments and then playing in the Midlands division against teams from Cardiff, Swansea, Nottingham and Birmingham.
“There were lots of girls who gelled together at the tournaments, many from our region, and Lucy likes the social side of tennis as well as playing and winning matches.”
Sharapova and Wozniacki are two of Lucy’s favourite tennis players, along with Bulgarian rising star Grigor Dimitrov and 2013 Wimbledon mens’ singles champion Andy Murray.
Lucy said: “I like Sharapova because she keeps fighting and she never gives up.
“Wozniacki, Dimitrov and Murray are all fighters like me and very aggressive. When I’m in a rally, I want to hit the winner and get the point finished.
“But I also like to mix it up with shots when I’m at the net where I volley quite a bit and playing a lot of doubles’ matches helps me tactically.
“I wanted to win at Wimbledon, so I was putting pressure on myself to play well.
“But I didn’t feel very much pressure on the court and I was surprised when I actually won the Girls’ County Consolation final because I wasn’t expecting to get that far in the competition.”
At the moment, tennis for Lucy is a series of low-key junior tournaments where her main supporters are parents Tracy and Peter, along with younger brother Thomas.
However, there was still time to fit in the small matter of an Aegon under-13 schools county title with Spalding High School and a south Lincolnshire doubles title with playing partner Tabitha Priestley.
Peter said: “Our attitude is to support Lucy in whatever she wants to do, even though it’s very difficult to watch her when she plays because of the stress involved.
“She has a reputation for taking matches into tie-breaks and she’s become the Tie-Break Queen because she’s so mentally strong in tie-breaks.”
As a student, Lucy is confronted by the inescapable challenges of balancing homework and tennis practice.
When she was a pupil at Kirkstone House School, Lucy’s parents would make what they called the Baston to Boston run, sometimes straight after their daughter had taken part in PE at the independent school in Baston.
Lucy said: “ We’ve always been a family where we threw balls at each other, so tennis was a natural progression for me.
“My tennis club encouraged me to take part in team sports at Kirkstone House School like netball to help balance my body out as tennis is very stressful.
“I fit in homework with my tennis lessons and when I get homework, I try to do it on the same night or the next day.
“Tennis has helped me mature and be organised, so I just want to go as far as I can in the sport and see how long my wiining streak lasts.”