As Andres Martin walked out to a practice court at the All England Club on the Friday before the start of the Wimbledon’s traditional “Middle Sunday” day of rest, he began to grasp the full gravity of his situation. The Flowery Branch native had qualified for the junior draw of the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world the day before, an accomplishment that didn’t truly set in until he looked around the nearby courts and saw who was hitting on the courts around him, a group he could now call his peers.
“I was warming up my friend for his match on Saturday, and we got to the gym, and the first person I see is (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga, warming up right next to me. It was super cool. I was like ‘Oh my God.’”
Martin, a rising freshman commit at Georgia Tech, was unsure if he was even going to participate in Wimbledon qualifying, even up to the last couple of weeks before the event.
But after positive showings in grass court tournaments at Nottingham and Roehampton, Martin couldn’t resist the possibility of breaking through to the grand slam level.
“When I ended up getting in the qualifying in Wimbledon, I was like ‘Yeah, I’m going to play that,’” he said. “For sure.”
Martin had never played on grass until the late-June tournament at Nottingham two weeks prior to the start of Wimbledon, but he quickly found the speed the surface played at complemented his aggressive style. After a straight sets victory over a local junior in the first round of qualifying, Martin found himself faced with a chance for redemption.
The last player standing between him and Wimbledon qualification was the Czech Republic’s Andrew Paulson, who had beaten Martin at Junior French Open qualifying a month earlier, denying him access to the main draw at Roland Garros in late May.
In the first meeting of the players, Martin had lost his only pair of clay court shoes prior to the match, ceding a major advantage to Paulson. In the second, Martin came fully prepared.
“I had two pairs of grass court shoes,” he said. “I was so ready.”
The results reflected Martin’s preparation.
He easily beat Paulson this time — 6-3, 6-2 — and he was finally admitted to the main draw of his first grand slam tournament.
The rest of the weekend was a blur of new and exciting experiences for Martin. Out on the practice courts, he would hit side by side with his heroes from the game, including eventual finalists Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, as well as Rafael Nadal among others.
When the time came for Martin’s first round match, Wimbledon security escorted him to his court, where a large crowd had gathered to watch.
“Everything was unexpected,” he said. “All new to me.”
Nerves got to Martin in his only singles match of the tournament, a 7-5, 6-0 defeat at the hands of Switzerland’s Dominic Stephan Stricker. Martin said he felt in control during the first set, but a couple of untimely losses of footing helped sway the momentum of the match.
It was a slippery slope from there, and Martin started to feel the nerves more as the match wore on.
“Little points can change the whole outcome of a match,” he said.
Over the past year, Martin has felt himself on the cusp of a breakthrough, already playing right there with some of the world’s top junior players. Making it to the main draw of a grand slam was a major milestone for him.
Now, he will refocus and attempt to make a run through the next major tournament in August, the U.S. Open.
“I think I still can take pluses out of (Wimbledon),” Martin said. “It’s not a bad thing what I did. I just need to learn from it and work on certain patterns and things that will help me improve in that situation next time. … I think Wimbledon was definitely good for my confidence and an awesome experience.”