GABRIELLA Taylor 18, first picked up a tennis racquet at the tender age of four at a Saturday mini session at Southampton's David Lloyd Sports Centre.

Soon, the young Gabriella - better known as Gabi - knew she wanted to be a world class tennis player for Great Britain and make her home town proud, writes NAZRIN WILKINSON.

Now, the local girl is fighting for a much coveted wildcard for the women's singles qualifiers, a chance to play in the greatest and most loved grand slam in the world - Wimbledon.

Gabi has come back fighting with renewed energy, confidence and determination after overcoming an injury in 2015 which had halted her considerable progress.

In the last six months alone, she has soared in the rankings from 1,020 to a career high 423.

Today, Gabi remains focused on her goals and clearly knows her game plan.

"So far the grass season has been an amazing experience for me. Especially, getting the chance to compete in the qualifiers of the World Tennis Association (WTA) Aegon Classic in Birmingham," she said.

"It was great to see how some of the world's top tennis players train and compete, but also getting the chance to hit with a few of them. I realise my level is not far off these girls and, in order for me to get to where they are, I have to keep my head down and continue working hard.

"I love the grass and the support of the British crowd, and to be playing on these courts at home means so much to me.

"However, the journey doesn't stop here. I am truly excited for the upcoming grass tournaments of the season, especially Wimbledon!"

Her mother Milena, echoes the player's confidence.

"For a British player, the most important period in the professional calendar is the grass season. What makes it even more exciting is that Gabi's favourite surface is grass.

"This year she has been very fortunate to be given two wildcards from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) all due to her career high 423 WTA ranking and her good results in the previous tournaments.

"She has just returned from Birmingham, where she played a qualification match versus a top-100 player, but lost 6-3 6-4.

"Despite the result, it was an excellent performance against the extremely tall (1.84m) Krystina Pliskova, who holds the WTA women's singles record for hitting 31 aces in Birmingham last year.

"It was very exciting to see Gabi training with the top ten players in the world. She gained a lot of confidence, match experience and self-belief."

Gabriella's journey has never been easy and her story is the stuff of dreams.

She is just a local kid who loves tennis, has undeniable talent and, despite financial hardships, obstinately holds onto her dreams and continues to believe in herself as others do.

Her coaches talk of a player dedicated to improving her game, writes Nazin Wilkinson.

David Ison, head performance tennis coach at David Lloyd, Southampton, and an ex-professional player who achieved his career-high singles ranking of World No. 366 in 1991 and a doubles ranking of World No. 250 in 1992, said: "Throughout my time coaching Gabi, I always admired her commitment, focus and dedication towards fulfilling her potential as an international tennis player, always demonstrating a willingness to improve and a desire to win."

Head coach Emilio Alvarez, an ex-professional who achieved his career-high singles ranking of World No. 81 in 1997 and No. 91 in doubles in 2004, feels Gabi is unstoppable and said: "She is knocking on the Pro's Tour door like many other girls all over the world.

"The difference between all the others and Gabi is that her potential has no limit. Her accuracy on both wings is from another planet and the speed she can generate on any given forehand is right up there with the fastest on the Tour."

As a child Gabriella lived and breathed tennis and sacrificed her normal life to train harder, play better and win more tournaments.

By her teens she had won most of the prestigious UK junior tournaments for age seven upwards.

With her parents Milena and Paul Taylor working around the clock to support her financially, practically and emotionally, Gabriella began to see the results she had always dreamt of.

At just 11, she played her first international tournament, Tennis Europe at Bressuire in France, and walked away with both the singles and doubles titles.

The following year, she returned to win both titles again and, by 2010, had become the British National U12 Champion.

By 2011, the youngster had won five major U14 and U16 Tennis Europe events.

In 2012 more wins followed as Gabriella fought for her dream to play for Britain. Her achievements included: finalist U14's Orange Bowl in Miami 2012, European Champion U14, finalist World Cup U14, British National Champion U14 and a highest Tennis Europe ranking of 7.

By her mid to late teens Gabi had played for Great Britain in the Junior Winter Cup, Junior Summer Cup, Maureen Connelly Trophy and the Fed Cup. Then she broke the pivotal career first and made her Wimbledon debut in 2015.

As one coach put it: "Chasing a dream is one thing but, even if you have the talent, the road to the international pro-tour is a difficult one. Training, coaching, physiotherapists, travel and equipment, all cost a great deal and you always need support from outside."

Gabi's parents are seeking exactly that support from businesses and tennis fans, hoping they will donate and sponsor Southampton's tennis ace.

If you want to be part of Gabi's story, to help her achieve her goals for Britain, please follow the link: In return, Gabi's sports exposure can give your business a world-class stage to highlight your work and your brand.