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Obituary: Gerald Battrick

ONE OF the best tennis players to come from Wales, Gerald Battrick never quite achieved the promise he showed as a schoolboy when his talents won him a scholarship to Millfield and also a place in the Welsh senior team at the age of 14.

Although he reached No 3 in the British rankings, he was kept down by his two contemporaries Mark Cox and Roger Taylor who dominated that era. Nevertheless he could be proud of his achievement of winning the Junior titles of Great Britain, Belgium and France.

He went on to represent Britain in the Davis Cup, but perhaps his best achievement was to win the British Hard Court Championship in 1971. He was one of only five home players to win in the post-war period.

Battrick was born in 1947 in Bridgend, Glamorgan, where his father was the Medical Officer, and his mother played a big part in Welsh tennis as a member of the Welsh Council. A local rival of the early days as junior champion was the great J.P.R. Williams, who followed Battrick as British junior champion in 1966. I remember saying to Battrick at that time how remarkable that Bridgend should turn out two champions only to receive the reply, "There is only room for one of us."

There was a bitter rivalry, but Williams turned his main attention to rugby, where he was acclaimed by the whole of Wales and became a national hero.

Improving his play with the facilities at Millfield, Battrick went on to the international scene. He was picked for the Davis Cup team in 1968, after winning the British Under 21 championship, but he was left on the side line for the match with France. His debut came the following year against Austria. In his build-up to this status he claimed many notable scalps in the various tournaments around the world. Among them were Mark Cox, Owen Davidson of Australia, Tom Okker, the Flying Dutchman, and Arthur Ashe, and Stan Smith before they became Wimbledon champions.

Battrick was making a name for himself but he was caught up in the controversy of "amateurism". In 1972 he turned professional, joining World Championship Tennis under the wing of Lamar Hunt, the Texan millionaire who played a big part in helping bring about "Open" tennis. Although tennis was declared open in 1968, those players on expenses were barred from Wimbledon, and it was not until the players' boycott of 1972, and with Herman David, the Chairman of Wimbledon, eventually being successful in his efforts, that Battrick, along with the other rebels, was allowed back.

By now the pressure of the world scene was making itself felt. He decided on a new future and went to Hamburg, playing in the German Bundesligo and coaching. He still however continued to play in the over 45s competition at Wimbledon, having meanwhile returned to Wales to set up his own coaching academy and spread the game to others.

Gerald Battrick's love of tennis was shared by his wife, the former Carolyn Camp, who had been a Surrey county player.

Gerald Battrick, tennis player and coach: born Bridgend, Glamorgan 27 May 1947; married Carolyn Camp (one son, one daughter); died 26 November 1998.