A former Grand Slam Champion as a junior, Britain’s Joshua Ward-Hibbert is preparing to compete on a very different court, as he signs for British Basketball League outfit the Leicester Riders.
Now 22 years old, Ward-Hibbert looked set for a promising career with racket in hand when he won a Grand Slam junior doubles title alongside Liam Broady.
However, a set of injuries, partnered with a diminishing level of motivation for the game of tennis, has pushed this talented individual into pursuing a quite different sport, though also at a professional level.
A former youth England international in both sports, the Nottinghamshire-born athlete’s promise truly came to fruition when, aged just 17, he struck the fastest ever serve at a Junior Wimbledon Championship, recorded at an immense 133mph.
Ward-Hibbert would regularly be seen ‘shooting hoops’ alongside tennis superstar Nick Kyrgios when on the ATP Tour, so when he enrolled on a Sports Science Degree at Loughborough University in 2016, it would have been little surprise to those who know him best that he opted to put his basketball shoes back on again, playing for the Derby Trailblazers alongside his studies at the Midlands university.
Standing at over 6ft 4in, Ward-Hibbert is clearly a physically gifted athlete who is well suited to both sports, but, having struggled to surpass his career-best ranking of 305 in November 2013, it is with new side the Leicester Riders where this young man will be hoping to achieve his greatest success in sport thus far.
And, in speaking to BBC Sport, he was clearly coy on the transition, stating: “I decided to take some time out to further my education. I was back home so started playing again at Derby, it was good to be around familiar faces. From there it spiralled and here I am.”
Whether tennis’ loss is basketball’s gain remains to be seen, but Ward-Hibbert’s decision to switch from the former to the latter comes at a time where British tennis could barely be in a better position on the domestic or international stage, whereas basketball has rarely struggled more.