Eastbourne finalist Jonny O’Mara is flying the flag not just for Scotland and Great Britain but also for British universities.
The 23-year-old is enjoying the best week of his career, having reached today’s doubles final and recently broken into the world’s top 100 alongside partner Luke Bambridge.
Last December, O’Mara was part of the British team that beat America to win the Master U competition, the biggest annual student team tennis tournament in the world, for the first time. Five of the six team members trained and studied at British universities.
And O’Mara, who made his Wimbledon debut 12 months ago, is keen to get the message out to young players that British universities now offer a real alternative to the better-known American college route.
O’Mara, who has had to put his studies at Stirling University on hold because of his success, said: “A lot of tennis players are attracted by America and why wouldn’t you be, especially at the age we are. To see a different life, you’ve got the full scholarships, you see it on the movies and it looks incredible.
“But in my opinion I don’t think there’s that much difference between the American and the British systems. The American one has more money but as a structure the British university system is in a good place – the level’s getting better.”
The British system has been transformed over the last five years under the stewardship of Universities Manager Alistair Higham. Since 2013, ten current or former students have held a world ranking compared to none previously.
Higham said: “By beating America in December we’ve proven at the top end we have very, very good players.
“It’s different options for different people, but it’s certainly a very good option to go to a British university and develop your tennis.
“While it’s really tough to make it to the highest levels of Wimbledon, the age of the players is getting older, and whether it’s US college or British university, it’s great to have that time to develop and not pay for your tennis. Our universities are market leaders in all aspects of the delivery of tennis.”
O’Mara and Bambridge will face Ken and Neal Skupski in today’s all-British men’s doubles final.
The Skupski brothers beat Americans Ryan Harrison and Nicholas Monroe 6-3, 6-3, while Bambridge and O’Mara overcame Robert Lindstedt and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4, 6-3.
In the men’s singles, British No 1 Kyle Edmund failed to build on his victory over Andy Murray as he crashed out of the Nature Valley International with a quarter-final defeat to Mikhail Kukushkin.
Second-seeded Edmund looked set for a last-four place after taking the first set, but world No 90 Kukushkin battled back to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.
Defeat for the 23-year-old Briton followed elimination for compatriot Cameron Norrie, who lost 6-3, 6-4 to Lukas Lacko in the opening match on Centre Court yesterday.
Edmund, who beat former world No 1 Murray in the second round on Wednesday, recovered from a break down to take the opening set by winning three successive games.
Kukushkin quickly quietened the home crowd though, securing an early break in the second set before Edmund finished with a double fault to send the match into a decider.
With the Wimbledon draw this morning, Edmund’s hopes of going into the tournament with a trophy were soon extinguished. He lost the opening three games of the final set and then took his frustration out on umpire Arnaud Gabas with a heated argument over a line call, before Kukushkin completed an unexpected victory.
The Kazakh will face German Mischa Zverev in the semi-finals following his 6-3, 6-3 win over third seed Denis Shapovalov.
Meanwhile, Lacko – through to his first ATP Tour semi-final in more than six years after seeing off British No 2 Norrie – faces Marco Cecchinato next. Italian Cecchinato recovered from a set down to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 against Australian John Millman.