A volunteer who ended up a
de-facto member of a tennis pro’s team has spoken of his pride after she became Wimbledon champion.
Mathew James, a tennis coach from Mold, has described his “surreal” experience of helping practice with Spaniard Garbine Muguruza in the weeks leading up to her accomplished defeat of the legendary Venus Williams in Saturday’s final.
Mathew, 27, who attended the tournament to volunteer as a “hitter”, ended up sitting in the player’s box for the final on Centre Court, before accompanying Muguruza and her team during the celebrations after she won 7-5, 6-0.
He helped her train before all but one of her matches in the lead-up to the
23-year-old becoming Wimbledon champion for the first time.
The former Ysgol Maes Garmon pupil, who used to train at the Wrexham Tennis Centre & High Performance Academy, said: “Pride is the word I am feeling.
“It went from going to Wimbledon to improve, get experience and learn and not expecting anything out of it to then being a training coach.
“I ended up doing a performance analysis on Venus Williams, which is quite a funny moment to find
yourself in. The experience of being in the box and having people sending photographs of the team, and her looking at them after she won, it is quite a cool story.
“There were two or three players who I was hitting with early on and you are just hoping that one of them does well – it’s turned out Gabrine has done really well and she was getting superstitious and asking for the same court to practice on every day.
“She even wanted everyone to sit in the same order in the box.”
Mathew works as a tennis coach at the Millfield School in Somerset, where he is hoping to bring through the next generation of tennis stars.
He said the experience would help him in his coaching role.
“With the kids at school they are still at an age where we ask them what their ambition is and it is to win Wimbledon and I can now tell them a part of what it takes to get there,” he said.
“I obviously don’t know about the preparation before the tournament, but I can tell them a bit about what it takes during the tournament.”
Mathew, who even ended up staying in the team’s apartment after the win, said he was hopeful he could help Muguruza train again.
He said: “I would love to do it again, but maybe next year at Wimbledon I will be headhunted.
“I want to get out to the US Open and do it out there but I will have to speak to them and ask the question.”
Mathew, who admitted to viewing Williams as the slight favourite before the final, looked set for a bright future in professional tennis himself as a youngster – but injury forced him to turn his back on the dream.
As a youngster he broke into the world’s top 100 and appeared at Wimbledon’s junior tournament when he was 16, but soon injuries took their toll.
This year he made his second appearance at the tournament as a hitter, where he helped the big names to warm up before they go on court.