GLOBAL success has boosted Emily Webley-Smith’s hopes of returning to Wimbledon and reignited her lifelong desire to play in the US Open qualifiers this year.
The jet-setting tennis star from Thornbury has won three titles since recovering from a hip injury at the start of the year and is aiming to improve on her current singles world ranking position of 404 to put herself in contention for the Grand Slams.
Webley-Smith won $10,000 singles and doubles tournaments in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in March before triumphing in the doubles of a $15,000 tournament in Dakar, Senegal, which was the 40th country she’s visited during her 12-year career.
US Open Qualifying has always eluded the 29-year-old, despite being ranked high enough three times with injuries preventing her from competing, and she will have to climb into the top 240 by the end of July to achieve her ambition.
British No8 Webley-Smith has played at Wimbledon four times in the doubles and twice in the singles, with her last appearance coming in 2011.
While she is unlikely to be handed a wildcard for the main singles draw, the Almondsbury Tennis Club member is hopeful she will be able to take part in qualifying and her doubles ranking of 191, which has improved significantly over the last year, could represent her best chance of appearing at the All England Club again.
“It is always something I am aiming for,” said Webley-Smith, who now trains at Virgin Active in Gloucester when she is in the UK.
“Wildcards are not in my hands. I would hope to be playing in the qualifying.
“If I play well in the next few weeks then my singles ranking will go up the same as my doubles has.
“My main goal is to play in the US qualifying. My priority more than that is to stay healthy and enjoy playing, then the results will come.”
Webley-Smith’s previous two singles titles before her Sharm El Sheikh triumph came in 2009, and she was pleased with the way she ground out the win against Eugeniya Pashkova in the final after losing the second set 6-0.
“I played very well in the final. It was a case of winning ugly, which I think I have found a way to do,” said Webley-Smith.
“It wasn’t really a factor being my first one in five years because I’ve had really good results at a higher level.
“Making the final of a $50k event in Japan is my best achievement in singles.”
Part of the thrill for Webley-Smith is the opportunity to visit new countries and her success in Senegal with South African Chanel Simmonds was her 13th doubles title.
She said: “It was a lot better than expected. It’s lovely to be healthy and playing well.”
Webley-Smith has spent the last month on tour in Asia, where she played one hard court tournament in China before travelling to Japan and getting her grass court season underway.