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Kent tennis player Sofia Johnson on her Wimbledon experience

When Sofia Johnson’s classmates return to Old Dominion College in Virginia, her tale of playing at Wimbledon may well trump anything they did this summer.

Kent ace Johnson balances US collegiate tennis with a degree in sports management, heading to college a year early to start her studies.

Kent tennis player Sofia Johnson
Kent tennis player Sofia Johnson

The end of the academic year gave Johnson the perfect opportunity to play in the girls’ singles at the All England Club, and she came through two qualifying matches to reach the main draw.

The 18-year-old, from Orpington, fought valiantly in a tough contest against fifth seed Viktoria Mboko, and was beaten 3-6 7-5 6-1 by the Canadian.

“It’s just hard losing, but I know she’s a really talented player and I think she’ll do really well at this tournament, so I’m just glad that I could play her,” said Johnson, a product of Bromley Tennis Centre.

“I did struggle because she’s a really good player and she’s very aggressive. It was hard to dictate some points. Overall, there’s some points I can improve on. The first set was the best I’d say.

“I think it’s just important to not underestimate myself. I had less pressure than her in the match as I’m a qualifier and she’s a seed. I just need to prepare and make sure I’m on my game from the start.

“It was the best experience. Wimbledon is my favourite tournament so I was so happy to compete here, come through qualifying in two tough matches. I’m just really happy to be here.”

One thing the teenager did enjoy about her time at the All England Club was the passionate support - from a few familiar faces, and a few less so.

She added: “My whole family were here except my brother - who’s also in America at University. They were very excited, they would not stop talking on the phone.

"I loved that they came to support me. Just seeing them in the crowd is so much fun.

“I think I was excited just to have so many people want to watch me and just have all these people here supporting me. I really enjoyed it - it really helped me throughout the match.”

Johnson’s immediate plan is to play as many tournaments in Britain as possible before her return to the US for her second year of studying.

The likes of Cameron Norrie have all played in the US before embarking on the main tour and though it’s a different experience to immediately heading onto tour, it’s one that’s benefited her greatly.

She said: “It’s very different as you have a team with you all the time. It’s not just you travelling alone with a coach. You’re all competing for the same thing and it’s a lot more supportive as you’re just with your team the whole time. It is a different environment but I really like it.

“It’s a good balance as you have so many people there who can help you balance your tennis and studies so you can do both at the same time.

“It’s hard to manage it when you’re playing matches every week against other universities so it’s really good as well.”

For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA website

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