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Fearnley, junior conqueror of Alcaraz & Sinner, set for Wimbledon debut

All eyes will be on World No. 1 Jannik Sinner and Roland Garros champion Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon. Not as many fans will be focussed on a player who defeated them both in the juniors: wild card Jacob Fearnley of Great Britain.

Fresh off a distinguished five-year career playing college tennis at Texas Christian University, the 22-year-old will make his major debut as a wild card at The Championships, the same event where he hit with eight-time champion Roger Federer four times as a teen.

Fearnley is well aware that he has not followed the same path as those three superstars, all of whom reached the top of the PIF ATP Rankings. Instead, the Briton put professional tennis on hold and became a four-time ITA All-American for TCU and two-time qualifier for the ATP Next Gen Accelerator, which increases the development pathway for top players in the American Collegiate system by providing direct entry into ATP Challenger Tour events.

Earlier this month, Fearnley, who just completed his college career, had never cracked the world’s Top 500. But everything changed when he entered qualifying at the Rothesay Open in Nottingham as an alternate. After battling through a final-set tie-break in his opening match, he successfully qualified for an ATP Challenger Tour main draw for the first time. One week later, the former college standout lifted the trophy.

On 19 June, Fearnley was awarded a main draw wild card into Wimbledon.

“It feels a bit surreal, but it’s a great feeling,” Fearnley told “I was a bit surprised that I was able to win, but I’ve been working hard and played well. So yeah, just super, super happy and super grateful to be given the opportunity to play.”

One week before competing in Nottingham, Fearnley was at the LTA’s National Training Centre in London practising with the likes of in-form Jack Draper and Cameron Norrie, another former TCU star. “It just gave me confidence that I could play with these guys,” he said.

Suddenly, just days after storming to glory on the Nottingham grass, Fearnley’s phone was ringing. British Davis Cup Captain Leon Smith called him with the news of his Wimbledon wild card.

“I didn’t really know how to react to be honest. It’s not something that you really prepare for,” Fearnley said. “I honestly didn’t really know what I was going to get. I thought I was going to get qualifying for sure. But I know how difficult it is to get a Wimbledon main draw wild card, so I was just super, super excited.”

<a href=''>Jacob Fearnley</a>

Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

Fearnley’s tennis journey began in Scotland, where he grew up with his mother, Samantha. She woke up early to provide for him by heading into work at the National Health Service as a human resources manager.

“My mom obviously has made a huge impact on me just supporting me, believing in me more than anyone. I’m super grateful for her,” Fearnley said. “She’s an unbelievable human and she’s done so much for me, especially in tennis.”

The Briton also made sure to point out the role played by his grandparents, who have since passed away.

“They were huge. They actually got me into tennis when I was younger. They had a big back garden and I used to play with them on it when I was really young. They were huge, my biggest supporters,” Fearnley said. “My mom had to go to work pretty early after I was born, so I would spend my whole days at my grandparents’ throughout my childhood. So it’s probably since I could walk. I was either playing with a table tennis bat and a table tennis ball when I was about two into hitting volleys, maybe when I was about four or five.”

Fearnley would develop into one of the Top 30 juniors in the world. He defeated both Sinner and Alcaraz when they were 15. The match against Alcaraz was in the final of a Grade 2 event held in Spain, and the older Briton triumphed in a final-set tie-break.

“Obviously those guys, their careers went in a totally different way than mine,” Fearnley said. “I went to college and those guys are the best in the world. It’s still a pretty cool thing to tell people.”

Coaches who played a role in his development include David Brewer and Marcel du Coudray. Despite his junior success, Fearnley opted to postpone a potential professional career to continue his growth at TCU.

“I think college helped me a lot. TCU was the best decision I ever made. I learned so much from being there. I got the opportunity to be coached by, I think, two of the best coaches in the world,” Fearnley said of head coach David Roditi and associate head coach Devin Bowen. “Aside from the fact of physically developing more, I think I’m definitely mentally stronger and deal with things a little bit better than maybe I did in the past. And I think that the other big thing is that I just believe in myself a little bit more. And that belief has come through just a lot of hard work and a lot of people supporting me. I’d say that’s the big thing that’s changed, just the belief in myself.”

That was something Bowen specifically pointed to. According to the coach, who has long been a trusted resource for Norrie, Fearnley’s story has been about finding the belief that he belongs and can play the sport at a high level.

“It took him all five years to mature, and he’s still 22 years old,” Bowen said. “But he’s definitely one of those players that if he had tried to go play at 18 or 19, you’d be throwing him to the wolves, and I think that’s the case with a lot of players.”

It was more than just a mental challenge, though. Fearnley suffered a series of injuries that hindered his progress in college: a stress reaction in his rib, a torn posterior tibialis, a right rotator cuff injury, pubic osteitis in his pubic bone, a lower back injury due to a trapped nerve and “a lot” of torn abdominals.

Bowen worked hard to help Fearnley with his serve, at first to more significantly revamp it as well as after it was affected by injuries. Jake even hit underarm serves at one point.

“At one stage, I kid you not, he was probably averaging 15, 20 double faults a match. Couldn’t put a serve in the court. Just would go and double fault match after match,” Bowen said. “That summer he ended up staying at TCU and we rebuilt his serve completely, which was great, because it gave him a fresh start on it and probably his best shot right now is probably the serve.”

From struggles with confidence to trouble with injuries, Fearnley has consistently persevered. He made the decision to prioritise tennis and the results have shown as much. The former Horned Frog this year became a two-time ATP Next Gen Accelerator and no matter how he performs at Wimbledon, wild cards on the ATP Challenger Tour await.

“It’s huge. It’s a great incentive for all the college guys. It’s just more motivation to work hard and to do well in college,” Fearnley said. “It’s also great assurance that you’ll have opportunities coming out of college because a lot of guys like myself, while I was a bit lucky to play some pro tournaments in the fall, they don’t have the chance to play, to get ATP points until they’re out of college. So to have those tournaments to get into, it’s huge just to kick-start your pro career.”

At a career-high No. 271 in the PIF ATP Rankings, Fearnley has already made a good start. He plays Spanish qualifier Alejandro Moro Canas in the Wimbledon first round and could face seven-time champion Novak Djokovic in the second round.

Bowen summed up the 22-year-old’s journey thus far: “This is really a special player in that he’s been through a lot in college in terms of just his tennis, the ups and downs, probably more so than any player that we’ve worked with, and the struggles emotionally and physically. He was injured a tonne. And he really made a decision a couple of years ago that he was going to put everything into tennis… He just put his head down and has been so determined ever since. It’s been an incredible story.”

Credit: ATP Tour 

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