Paralympic vision for Queenswood School tennis ace Luz Esperanza Merry
PUBLISHED: 17:08 11 February 2015 | UPDATED: 17:13 11 February 2015
The list of past Grand Slam winners to have graced the courts in competition at Hatfield's Queenswood Girls' School is spectacular.
Brit Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Kim Clijsters and Lleyton Hewitt have all tasted glory across the world and now there is another future great waiting in the wings to take her place in the institution’s hall of fame.
Luz Esperanza Merry, a half Peruvian Year 9 student, who joined the school back in September, has been achieving big things ever since she first picked up a racket at the age of seven.
Within the sprawling grounds of Queenswood, Merry, originally from Plymouth, recalls: “My family is sporty but it was only my sister that used to play so because of that, I copied her.
“She gave up on it though but I really enjoyed it and carried on.”
Not content with merely playing recreationally, Merry made the step to join a club and before too long, she had enrolled in an academy in France for two years.
One year beyond that, she had moved continent and had forged base in Arizona, USA.
Huge steps for someone yet to celebrate her 11th birthday.
She continued: “Sometimes my mum came with me to the academies, but on the whole, I was on my own with other children learning the same as me.
“I really enjoyed it because I like to be independent and I learned a lot of things that I don’t think people my age knew how to do.
“I learnt to cook and clean and just look after myself. It was good for me to do it.”
The youngster was turning practice into perfection on court, conquering many on her way to 45 titles both home and abroad.
However, after experiencing septicemia in her right hip, her life was turned upside down.
Merry’s tennis career looked to be over.
She said: “I wasn’t actually supposed to walk again.
“Being a keen tennis player already, that hit me pretty hard because it was a case of finding new things to do.
“I thought back to a tournament I had won years before though and remembered there was a wheelchair tennis player at the event so I went back to that centre and asked if they did coaching and it gradually grew from there.”
Luckily for the youngster, she is still able to walk, although she believes she could be confined to a wheelchair in the near future.
Nevertheless, with the new-found determination to turn her amazing potential in the sport to a different discipline, the student, who trains at Gosling Tennis Academy, has not looked back since.
Now ranked world number two in the girls’ singles rankings after less than two years in the game, the 14-year-old has picked up where she left off last year.
Merry won her first women’s senior tournament in Wrexham in what she describes as one of her two best achievements in her short but highly successful career so far. The other was winning team gold at the U18s World Team Cup in Turkey.
New year but still that same winning habit for Merry, topping up her mantelpiece with yet more silverware just two weeks ago.
At the site where Australian Open Final foes Murray and world number one Novak Djokovic met for the very first time during their junior battles - Tarbes in France - Merry won the girls’ doubles and finished runner-up in the singles, after ironically being beaten by her doubles partner Ukrainian Viktoriia Lvova.
Merry said: “It was a really good experience. It was on a funfair style area and there was a big crowd there, something that I had never really experienced before.
“They were all behind me in the singles’ final though. I have known Viktoriia for quite a while and she definitely deserved to win.”
Just a few hours after returning from her successful French jaunt, Merry was greeted with more accolades.
The wheelchair tennis ace was named the Plymouth Herald’s Young Personality of the Year for 2014.
Her work on the court is certainly not going unnoticed and she is aiming for bigger and better things in the not too distant future.
She said: “It was amazing and a great honour to receive such an award. To beat some great sportsmen and women in the process was brilliant.
“I just wish I could have been there but I had that competition in Tarbes.
“Hopefully I can go back down to Devon and claim the award soon.”
The big one is now just around the corner for Merry. The 2016 Paralympics in Rio De Janeiro.
Qualifying begins in May, 16 months before the grandest stage of them all and Merry is fully focussed on succeeding at the highest level.
“Hopefully I can get there. There will be a lot of competition. I need to be in the top 23 in the world unless I get a wildcard but my aim is qualifying outright. I am number 48 at the moment so if I can put a winning run together, who knows?”