Like so many British contenders at all levels down the years, Liam Broady was left to regret missed opportunities yesterday – not least the chance to cock a snook at the Lawn Tennis Association.
A victory for the Lancastrian left-hander in the Boys' Singles final would have been something of an embarrassment for the LTA, who fell out with his family after suspending funding to his sister Naomi, for disciplinary reasons. His father, Simon, who now refuses to accept any money for either of his children from the governing body, was sitting on a crowded Court One to see Liam toss away a winning position and lose 2-6 6-4 6-2 to the Australian Luke Saville.
There will be one more chance next year for the 17 year-old Broady, but by next June Stanley Matthews Jnr will have reigned for 50 years as the last Briton to win junior Wimbledon. He took the title in 1962, briefly raising hopes that were never fully realised of a family sporting dynasty before retiring to the United States, where he still lives, aged 65. He therefore had a rather less successful career than other former winners Bjorn Borg (1972), Ivan Lendl (1978), Stefan Edberg (1983) and Roger Federer (1998). Many other winners, however, have made little impression, especially in recent years. The last British finalist, Miles Kasiri (2004), quickly dropped out of the sport altogether, suffering from a shoulder injury and an unreliable temperament.
Winning the boys' doubles last year gave Broady invaluable experience of Court One and nervousness was not a problem yesterday. Indeed, he said the largest crowd he had ever played in front of was an inspiration.
"That was probably one of the best things today," he said. "My tennis wasn't. They really got behind me and really helped."
How they cheered the prospect of a rare home triumph the day after Andy Murray's latest disappointment, as Broady romped through the first set in 37 minutes. It was the Australian, initially at least, who seemed far more bothered by the occasion, double faulting on the first point of the match and dropping his serve in the third and fifth games. Although touching 120mph, the Saville serve was not consistent and when he was broken in the first game of the second set as well, he was left shaking his head.
Suddenly, however, it was Broady's serve that began to misfire. "That's what let me down the most today," he would admit. Three times he was broken in that second set, throwing his racket in the air in frustration during a run of 11 successive lost points, after serving when ahead by a set and 4-3.
In the key fourth game of the final set he double faulted twice, allowing Saville a 3-1 lead that was extended to 5-2 after an extraordinary rally in which Broady let a ball bounce on the line that he felt was drifting out and then played one he should have left. He then failed to deal with a mishit return by Saville that was so high it passed above the roof. That proved to be the last game of the match.
"He managed to break me [in the second set] and served better and it just slipped away," Broady said. "In the third I had a few chances at 2-4 to break him but I played a few slack points again. There are mixed emotions now. Obviously I'm proud I won the tournament [at Roehampton] and managed to make the final, but I think I could have taken it one step further."
Although his father declined to pour petrol on the flames of the LTA dispute by commenting any further, there is no immediate sign of a reconciliation, which means Liam must struggle to raise funds as well as a senior world ranking of 746.
"Obviously it is very tough," he said. "You have to have something special to your game to attract attention. But this is one of the biggest junior tournaments in the world so hopefully I'll be able to attract a few more sponsors."
An hour after the singles final, a smaller section of his fan club – there is an enthusiastic female following and he currently has no girlfriend – decamped to Court 18 to see Broady and the Slovakian Filip Horansky lose a semi-final against fellow Briton George Morgan and Croatia's Mate Pavic 6-3 7-6. Another Briton, Oliver Golding, will be up against Morgan in today's final, partnering the world junior No 1, Jiri Vesely.
The American Bryan brothers Bob and Mike, the top seeds, won the mens' doubles in their fifth final in seven years. They beat Robert Lindstedt of Sweden and Horia Tecau of Romania 6-3 6-4 7-6.