A YOUNG Ayr tennis star has enjoyed an unforgettable experience by treading the same manicured lawns as generations of Grand Slam champions.

Ayr's Charlotte McCollough may not have lifted silverware this week on the courts at Wimbledon – but she still enjoyed an unforgettable experience at SW19.

Charlotte, 13, who attends Belmont Academy, 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.

Thousands of fourteen and under and eighteen and under players took part in the qualifying stages this year, leading to county and regional finals in June and July, with the winners progressing to the national finals on Wimbledon’s Aorangi Courts last week.

Charlotte failed to reach the latter stages, but was still thrilled to attend Wimbledon and revealed it was an experience she will never forget.

She said: “It’s been really fun. I’ve enjoyed my matches and I think I’ve played quite well. It’s been really good.

“I’ve only played on grass once before. The ball doesn’t bounce too high, and it’s quite hard to live on, but it’s quite a nice surface as when you get an opportunity you can put the ball away. I’ve had to hustle.

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“I loved watching both Wimbledon finals this year and I came here a couple of years ago and I enjoyed both trips.”

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.”

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.