Lee down and out

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The Independent Online
Martin Lee followed in Tim Henman's footsteps yesterday and became the second Briton to fall in the quarter-finals of a singles event at Wimbledon. But Lee's 7-5, 6-4 defeat in the Boys' singles by the Croatian Ivan Ljubicic was not the main cause for his disappointment.

The Worthing 18-year-old rightly felt that this was the year when he should have been given a chance, via the All England's wild card entry system, to test his powers in the men's event.

Lee was named as the world No 1 junior in both singles and doubles shortly before the Championships began almost two weeks ago, but that was not enough to elevate him from the kids to the adults' table at Britain's annual tennis feast.

Lee's coach, Ian Barclay, the silver-haired Australian who guided Pat Cash to the men's title here in 1987, explained: "Martin has been so down in the dumps since not getting a wild card. I have been trying to lift him out of the doldrums and get him fired up with all the answers, but I couldn't get him fired up at all.

"It's an everlasting effect. He has done everything he could by getting to No 1 in the world, but he still couldn't get in to the main draw. It has been very rough for him, but he tried his guts out in this match and I can't ask for any more. I'm sure he will get through this and he will bounce back."

He will have to. Overcoming disappointment is as much a part of succeeding as is coping with success. Martin, last year's Wimbledon junior doubles winner with James Trotman, has enjoyed plenty of the latter, but will undoubtedly encounter deeper lows on the senior circuit.

It is a fact that Lee's father, Brian, a full-time coach who taught his son before handing over to Barclay, is aware of. During this defeat he was concerned that his son was showing too much negative emotion as he frequently crashed his racket into the grass. "He has to be more professional and hide his emotions," he said.

In truth, Ljubicic outplayed Lee with a powerful serve and smooth backhand that betrayed his 17 years and caused one of the British camp to suggest that he must be at least 22. He looked older, but that is possibly true of anyone who has risked their life fleeing the war in Bosnia.

The rain-affected match, on a sparsely populated Court Four, always seemed beyond Lee's grasp, despite his superior ranking. He led 5-4 in the first set but failed to reach set point and was broken in the first game of the second set. "I may be at the top of the junior ladder," Lee said, "but I'm at the bottom rung of the seniors and know that I have a lot to do."

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