Tennis ace has Hammers hope

One Hammers fan in particular has got a keen eye on Wimbledon this week.

Andrew Lapthorne is the world No4 in wheelchair Quad Tennis singles, and will be going for gold at next year's Paralympic Games in London. Lapthorne is also the reigning Australian Open doubles champion and finished as runner-up in the French Open on Sunday - despite recent back and wrist injuries.

Having returned to England, he is focusing on the British Open in Nottingham next month but is also finding time to watch Andy Murray's exploits at SW19. Lapthorne knows the Murray family well and is tipping this year to be the one that Britain finally celebrates a Wimbledon champion again.

"There is a big buzz at the moment," Lapthorne said. "It is all going right for Andy. Hopefully he will make the final and then you never know what could happen. It would be great for him to get the first one out of the way and then I am sure he will never look back."

The Ruislip-based Lapthorne recalled watching the Carling Cup semi-final against Birmingham City alongside Murray while both were preparing for big Australian Open matches earlier this year.

Lapthorne said: "I started watching the match in bed, I had got up especially at 4.30am but by the time it went to extra time I went to the players' lounge. Andy was there and we were watching it together. I was wearing my West Ham shirt and we started talking.

"He's a fan and we were both looking at the game and trying to work out what had gone on. Carlton Cole scored a great goal and we were on our way. It didn't work out in the end but it turned out to be the perfect preparation. I was angry and it made me focus on what I had to do on court."

Lapthorne has had a stop-start time since then because of his injuries but hoped his run to the French Open final - he and partner Peter Norfolk are the world No1s in doubles - is a sign that he is over those issues. The bigger picture is preparing for next summer's sporting extravaganza and his ambition of gold medals in both the singles and doubles.

"It is all about getting fit for 2012 and everything is going toward that. My results now are important but not as important as they will be next year. That is my sole goal. It is a rebuilding process now and hopefully things will keep going in the right direction."

Lapthorne has similar aspirations for West Ham United and is delighted with the arrival of Sam Allardyce and, in particular, Kevin Nolan. "He has been one of my favourite players for a few years and has always done well against us. To hear he dropped down a division to play for us was exciting and I can't wait to see him play.

"I hope West Ham are a Premier League team again in 2012 and I have two gold medals - that would be the perfect year."