Billy Harris hopes to park the van story after fulfilling Wimbledon dream

Billy Harris is hoping to park the transit van and create a new narrative at Wimbledon.

The 29-year-old has been one of the stories of the grass-court season with his runs to the quarter-finals at Queen’s Club and the semi-finals in Eastbourne prior to his Wimbledon debut on Tuesday.

“It’s always been a dream to play at Wimbledon,” said Harris. “I went to qualifying a couple of times and, to be here in the main draw, it’s great. I feel like my game’s in a good place. It’s been a great few weeks.

“It’s taken me a lot longer than most people to get here. It’s been a long journey and a lot of years. It probably feels even more special to be here now.”

The headline around Harris so far has been the years he spent earlier in his career travelling around Europe in a converted transit van with a bed in the back to save money at tournaments.

Parking in McDonald’s car parks and cooking on a camping stove, it was a far cry from the glamorous image of the grand slams.

Harris eventually grew tired of van life, and it was not a happy ending for the vehicle, with the Isle of Man player saying: “My dad used it for a little bit after me and then the engine blew up so that was the end of it.”

Billy Harris at Wimbledon
Billy Harris at Wimbledon (John Walton/PA)

By contrast, Harris’ career is going from strength to strength, with the 29-year-old now closing in on a place in the top 100.

His first-round match will come against Spaniard Jaume Munar, with a potential clash with ninth seed Alex De Minaur next up.

“It’d be nice to get a few wins at Wimbledon and change the van story to a Wimbledon story,” said Harris with a smile.

Another British player arriving at the All England Club in good form is Paul Jubb, who reached his first ATP Tour semi-final in Majorca, beating top-20 star Ben Shelton.

Jubb took Nick Kyrgios to five sets at Wimbledon in 2022 and broke into the top 200 but injuries last year sent him plummeting down to a low of 894, while he also had to deal with the death of his grandmother, who raised him on a Hull council estate after he was orphaned as a young child.

“It was really tough being sidelined,” said Jubb. “It was just a crazy time mentally for me, injuries and also outside stuff.

“It was a difficult year but I felt like I managed it well and was always focused on being positive and getting back to where I want to be. Thankfully since the start of this year I’ve managed to gain some good momentum.”

Jubb shares a flat in London with new British number one Jack Draper, and the pair picked each other up last summer when both were ruled out of Wimbledon.

“We’re super similar in most aspects,” said Jubb. “I probably had to mother him a little bit at the start I’d say but it’s awesome living together.

“We’re like a married couple. We get in, one of us will cook dinner, and then maybe after that we’ll chill and we’ll watch tennis or put on a movie. We’re always talking a lot about tennis and where we can get better.”

The 24-year-old is two years older than Draper but is hoping to start catching him up on the court.

Jubb said: “Growing up together and seeing his progression, I’m with him day in, day out when we’re in London and seeing the work he puts in, it’s obviously great motivation to see what he’s doing – he’s doing so well. It only pushes me more to keep trying to follow him.”

Jubb will take on Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild in his opening match on Tuesday, where he is hoping there will be a different outcome to his epic against Kyrgios.

“It was a good match but I’m still gutted I didn’t win,” he said. “Winning at Wimbledon was one of my dreams as a kid. It was great experience and hopefully helps me this year to feel comfortable out there but a win is the main thing I want and I don’t care how I get it.”