La Hunn Lam and CNMI sports hall of famer Jeff Race are now in England getting ready for the qualifier for the inaugural 14U Championships at Wimbledon.
The 12-year-old Lam learned how to play tennis in the CNMI under the tutelage of Race, the CNMI national coach and president of the Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association, before moving to Europe a couple of years back.
Race said Lam is getting ready for the wildcard phase of the All England Club classic by hitting balls with the best 14-year-olds on the planet.
“La Hunn trained about four hours yesterday at Roehampton, where they played all the qualifying for Wimbledon. We’ll see if he can win any matches, but I can tell you that he can keep up and is not intimidated by the best 14-year-old players in the world,” he said.
Race, who recently stirred the CNMI to three gold medals and a bronze medal in the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022, said Lam actually practiced against the No. 1 player in Asia, the No. 1 player in Australia, and the No. 1 player in Africa and wasn’t fazed at all.
“I am really excited. I’m playing with such good players and on the grass at Wimbledon,” said Lam.
Race added that his former ward is simply giddy at the thought of facing the best 14U players in arguably the sport’s most prestigious grand slam.
“A few minutes ago we were waiting to get on the bus to go to training and La Hunn was just so excited he was bouncing off the walls. I had to have him do some breathing exercises to calm him down. What an experience for a young man,” he said.
Lam also wasn’t alone in being excited as Race also had a chance to meet one of his hometown idols when he got a chance to talk with tennis legend and 39-time tennis major winner Billie Jean King.
“I just had a five-minute conversation with Billie Jean King. We’re from the same hometown and I won my first title, the Moore League doubles championship, on the Billie Jean King tennis center courts,” he said.
“We were by ourselves in the cafe this morning at Roehampton when Billie Jean King walked through. I never ask for photos but I did ask her. We are from the same hometown and we started talking for about five minutes. Later on she stopped on her way out to give La Hunn some tennis advice. Stuff of dreams!” Race added.
Lam now resides in Mallorca, Spain and one of his coaches is Tony Nadal, uncle of 21-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal.
Lam and another Oceania netter, Aishi Das of New Zealand, have been selected to play in the fully funded (airfares, accommodation, meals, transfers, transportation, and accreditation) Inaugural 14U Championships at Wimbledon from July 7 to 10, 2022.
Das is being accompanied by her coach, Celine Schneider.
According to the Oceania Tennis Federation, the All England Lawn Tennis Club established this event because they want to see juniors being able to compete on grass earlier in their careers than is currently the case. The 14U boy’s and girl’s events (16 draw) will showcase the best 14U players from each of the six ITF regions plus the four grand slam nations.
The format will initially be round robin with four groups of four players in each pool with the first place in each pool progressing to the knockout semifinals and finals. The final will be played on the last day of the Wimbledon Championships on Sunday, July 10.
Lam and Das arrived last Sunday on the first week of Wimbledon and will stay until at least Sunday late afternoon of Week 2 of Wimbledon or until Monday after the 14U Championships has finished.