Some critics scoff at the handing-out of Wimbledon wild cards to Britons they consider to be undeserving, but few players will have worked harder for their place at the All England Club this year than Dan Smethurst. The 23-year-old Briton has toiled tirelessly since the start of the season to improve his world ranking and received his reward when he was named among the first batch of recipients of Wimbledon wild cards.
The Lawn Tennis Association recommends that wild cards are given only to British players ranked in the world's top 250. Smethurst, from Lancashire, was the world No 403 at the start of this year but was determined to break into the top 250 in time for Wimbledon. He has played 51 matches in 2014 – four more than Rafael Nadal, who has been the most active player among the leading men – and finally broke into the top 250 last month.
"It's been a long year," Smethurst said. "I just kept my head down and got on with improving my ranking. Now, after getting the call, it's really tough to put it into words. Looking back it was almost an impossible task to go from 400 to 250 in the world rankings in the space of five months. So to have done it is a bit of a shock and I'm just really proud. It's been a lot of matches, a lot of winning and a load of stress on the body, but it's been worth it.
"This is what you dream of. I've been watching Wimbledon since I was four and have been going to watch since the age of seven. I'll try to get advice from as many players as possible as to how to approach this.
"It's my first Wimbledon. I really don't know what to expect so it's important that I do my homework. I have to go out there and concentrate on putting my best game on the court. I'm not going there to soak up the atmosphere and I'm very focused about what I have to do. I'm just so pumped about this."
Wild cards have also been awarded to Dan Evans, James Ward, Dan Cox, Kyle Edmund and the Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis. Wild cards into the women's singles have been given to Naomi Broady, Samantha Murray, Tara Moore and the Czech Kristyna Pliskova.
Johanna Konta, who will play at Wimbledon by dint of her world ranking, was the last Briton left in the Aegon Classic at Edgbaston but went out of the tournament today when she was beaten by Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak.
Naomi Broady, who has been given a wild card, has never reached the second round of Wimbledon.