Wimbledon Wildcard – MIMI XU!

We sit down with Mimi Xu, who at 13, became Wales’ youngest tennis player to compete in Junior Wimbledon in 2021.

On the back of getting to the quarterfinals in the Junior French Open doubles, and now receiving a wild card for qualification to Wimbledon, she talks to us about her current and future plans and how proud she is to be a part of British Women’s Tennis.

Can you share with us how you initially got into tennis?

When I was 3 I moved house and there was a club 5 mins away from my house (Swansea Tennis and Squash club). I would walk past my local club, and see people playing. I started playing when I was 4 playing 30 minutes a week, as my attention span was very short. It was an outdoor club, so depending on the weather sometimes I wouldn’t even play in a month. At that age I really liked just hitting balls, and learning the things which come naturally to me now like top spin, changing into chopper grip.


What sparked your interest in the sport, and at what age did you start playing competitively?

I started playing competitively when I was 6. Then when I was 7, I won the 8u Welsh Championships, which then started making me believe in my ability and potential more and more. I’ve always loved watching people like Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Serena Williams on TV, and as a young child what really motivated me was wanting to make the big screens, where thousands of people would be watching you.


Do you have any memorable stories about why you chose to pursue tennis?

I went on a school trip with my primary school to Swansea Tennis Centre. I was already having sessions at my local club, so I knew a bit more than my other classmates. Then the coaches at the tennis centre asked if I wanted to come down to a few sessions they had during the week. That’s when I started to train more and enjoy it more as well.

Mimi, your rise in the tennis world has been nothing short of remarkable. Can you share with us the key moments or experiences that have contributed to your success so far?

Well obviously, the biggest and my favourite experience so far has to be winning the 18U GB Nationals, and earning a Wimbledon qualifying wildcard for women’s. My experience playing Wimbledon qualifying was a mixture of amazing and nerve racking. Overall though, I was just so excited.

Another memorable moment was playing my first abroad tournament without my parents at 11 years old. I went to play the Top 11/12 in Bressuire, France and at the time it was the longest I’d ever been away from home, and the first time I’d been abroad for a tournament. I was extremely homesick, however I ended up winning both singles and doubles. I learnt so much about myself and tennis on an international level on that trip.


Last year, as a 14-year-old, you came incredibly close to qualifying for Wimbledon. How did that experience shape your aspirations and motivation going forward?

It gave me a better understanding of what it takes, and the areas I need to improve in order to get to that level. Having that experience really put things into perspective for me, and it’s given me belief that one day I will hopefully be able to get to that level. My qualifying match I played was probably the most pressure I had felt before playing my match, however once I was out on the court, I loved every single moment.


Do you have any special memories of Wimbledon growing up or competing last year?

Last year I won my first match in Junior Wimbledon at the All England Club, which is probably the happiest I’ve ever felt winning a match. Coming off court and kids coming up to you asking for your autograph is a memory that I’ll never forget.


Playing at Junior Wimbledon must have been an exciting and challenging opportunity for you. Could you tell us about your journey and emotions during that tournament?

I got to 3rd round and I played my 2nd round on court 12 and my 3rd on court 18. Court 12 was the biggest show court I’d ever played on. I obviously had so many nerves before playing my match but having the home fans supporting me really helped ease them. My favourite part was having hawkeye on both of those courts. I didn’t use it in my match on court 12 but used it twice in my 3rd round match. I didn’t get any right, but I loved the suspense with the crowd clapping, waiting for the call to be made. That, in itself, was an experience.

You had a spell out recently with injury. Is that problem behind you now?

Yes, I missed out on playing the Junior Australian Open due to a foot injury, however I’ve gone through rehab and recovered really well. I’m now training on clay in preparation for the Junior French Open, which I am really excited for.


What are your hopes for the season?

Because I’ve been out for a few months, this season I just really want to get back into playing tournaments consistently, and continue to develop my game. However, I would really love to just enjoy having the opportunity to play the junior Grand Slams and hopefully go deep into a few.


With rising stars like Emma Raducanu and Coco Gauff making waves in the tennis world. How exciting is it to be part of women’s tennis at the moment?


It’s extremely exciting. Coco Gauff made her mark at Wimbledon when I was 11 years old. Since then, she’s someone who I’ve really looked up to, as she’s comfortably transitioned from the junior to women’s tour at such a young age. Emma had such an amazing 2021, and it’s really inspiring to see what she’s achieved, for young British tennis players.


How does representing Wales in your tennis career hold significance for you?

When I was younger I always played county cup, which was my first experience of tennis as a team sport. It was one of my favourite experiences. Cheering on your teammates with hundreds of different chants, playing a deciding doubles to see who was going through to the finals. 10u County Cup finals was also my first ever time having Nandos, and now it’s one of my go to restaurants at tournaments. I really cherish those moments as they allow you to experience the sport in a completely different way.


Are there any particular moments or achievements that have made you proud to carry the Welsh flag?

My first time playing Four Nations was a memorable achievement. I was playing in the 12u team, and I would go and watch the 14s and 18s play their matches. The whole team environment was so encouraging with the older players coming to support and looking after us younger ones.


Could you tell us about your parents influence on your tennis career and how they have supported your passion for the sport?

They’ve always been extremely supportive on whatever I’ve wanted to do. Whether that’s on or off the court, I know that they’ll always back me right to the end. They will always have belief in me even at times when I don’t, so I will forever be grateful for how much they have contributed to my journey.

As a young player with a bright future ahead, how do you balance the pressure to perform and meet expectations with simply enjoying the game?

I believe as long as I put 110% into anything that I do the results will eventually come. Anytime I go out onto the court I want to leave the court without any regrets as I then know I have tried my absolute best, which gives me confidence in myself. Enjoying the game simply comes from me loving to play and compete, so seeing games as a chance to just go and have some fun, whilst my competitive side always wanting to win.