reports from Beckenham
Jeremy Bates enjoys scrapping with those who also have GB in parentheses after their name. As his country's long-standing No 1 he is there to be shot at, and it brings the best out of him. At Beckenham yesterday, he had to draw on more than was expected before Andrew Foster became the second home-grown stepping-stone towards a place in Sunday's final.
Bates talks about the benefits to be gained from an all-British challenge, the "growing exercise" that accrues from putting a reputation on the line against those who would most like to bring him down. It is something he recommends for the next generation that must one day succeed him, and helps to explain why he has decided to reject David Lloyd's approach to rethink his Davis Cup retirement.
"I made my decision and have never been one to go back on my word," Bates said after his 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory. "As much as I would like to work with David, who is a guy I have a lot of respect for, I am adamant that after 10 years it's time to put the youngsters in. The Davis Cup is a different game which can make or break careers. We have to see how they do."
Two summers ago, Foster was being mentioned as a likely successor, his flame enduring through three rounds at Wimbledon before joining the list of Pete Sampras' victims en route to his becoming Wimbledon champion for the first time. Since then Foster's career has been stuck on the back burner, but through three competitive sets, a devastating service helped remind us that the Staffordshire man is still around.
Bates admitted it was the best form Foster had produced against him, and for a time a severely depleted tournament - the women's top seed, Nicole Bradtke, departed yesterday - was in danger of losing its biggest draw. "In the first games of the third set I didn't think I had any chance of breaking him," Bates said. "I knew the serves were going to come to my forehand but I couldn't get them back."
Today Bates meets the fourth seed, Petr Korda, and is joined in the third round by Paul Hand, the British No 15, who put out Marcos Ondruska of South Africa, 6-3, 6-4, and also by Andrew Richardson, who beat Gary Henderson. Richardson was able to savour the growing experience before he takes on the second seed, Patrick Rafter of Australia.Reuse content