‘Henry’s Barmy Army’: rowdy weapon in British star’s Wimbledon triumph | Wimbledon 2023

new balance

A secret weapon is handy for a crunch Wimbledon match, and for the young British tennis star Henry Searle it came in the form of a joyously rowdy group of Midlanders, who lived every shot with the 17-year-old and cheered him all the way to victory in the boys’ singles final.

The 50-strong “Henry Searle Barmy Army”, decked out in matching T-shirts that they got a courier to deliver to the pub they were sitting in the night before Sunday’s final, cheered every point, rose to their feet at every winner and generally behaved like this was the top game of the day, not the small matter of the men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz.

Searle powered his way to a rambunctious 6-4, 6-4 victory against the fifth seed Yaroslav Demin, hitting nine aces, the fastest of which was recorded at 134mph (216km/h), faster than anything Djokovic has managed this tournament. And there were barely a break in play that was not punctuated with cries of, variously, “Keep it rollin’, Hen!”, “Come on big boy!” and “Light the candle!”

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The unseeded teenager became the first British winner of the boys’ event since Stanley Matthews Jr in 1962. And he did it without dropping a set, adding his name to an illustrious list that includes Wimbledon greats Roger Federer, Björn Borg, Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams.

After he had won the second set to rapturous cheers from his troupe, a rather shell-shocked Searle thanked the crowd, his family and – naturally – his Barmy Army, and said he would try to keep his head during the added attention that this win would inevitably garner.

Henry Searle holds the boys’ singles trophy at Wimbledon
Henry Searle is the first British winner of the boy’s singles at Wimbledon since the son of the former footballer Stanley Matthews. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

“It’s a pretty special feeling,” he said. “It’s not going to come too often so I’m going to enjoy it. It was amazing being out on this court today.”

The celebrations carried on in the stands, and looked likely to continue into the night. Searle’s brother and mother were overwhelmed with emotion, while others in the group were crying and hugging with abandon.

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Nick Morris, who coached Searle when he was younger, had almost lost his voice by the end of the match. “It’s just incredible, the dedication he has put into this and the hard work – we’re just so happy to see him play like this,” Morris said.

The young champion’s promise was apparent from an early age, he said. “He’s always been unbelievable, always really competitive and he shows real attention to detail.” Asked what his hopes were for Searle, Morris said: “If he can stay healthy and fit, the sky’s the limit.”

The supporters’ troupe only decided to get T-shirts made at the last moment, making an express order of 30, which they paid an Uber driver to deliver to them in a pub last night, said one of Searle’s group.

They were also asked, in vain, to calm down at one point by a steward. “He said ‘quieten down’, but who cares,” one of the group said. “We didn’t listen.”

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Back in the Midlands, members of the Wolverhampton lawn tennis and squash club, where Searle still continues to play, said they were “over the moon” with his Wimbledon triumph.

Marc Hughes, 57, the general manager of the club that Searle joined at the age of two and a half, said everyone at a “rammed” screening of the match was proud of his performance.

“We run a junior performance programme and Henry comes down and hits with them, the guy’s just won at Wimbledon, two weeks earlier he was hitting with the juniors, that’s the sort of guy he is.” Hughes said.

Outside No 1 Court after the match, Searle’s Barmy Army huddled together and chanted “champion” before following up with “we are Wolves” – the football club the new Wimbledon champion and many in this group support.

One of the group called out from the back of the huddle: “To the bar!” Searle’s brother, Oscar, was pulled into repeated selfies with spectators, despite his insistence that he was, in fact, not Henry. Encouraged by the group, he posed for pictures anyway – and the cheers continued.

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