reports from Beckenham
Those wearing the organisers' badges at Beckenham did not know whether to celebrate or cry. Those behind the shrill voices were definitely crying. Patrick Rafter, the new teeny-bop idol of the courts and the second seed of the Kent tournament, went out yesterday but ample compensation for the patriots came from the identity of his conqueror, one of our own hunks, the 6ft 7in Andrew Richardson from Lincolnshire.
Hardly surprisingly, it was the best win of a career that up to now has been inconspicuous. Rafter, the young Australian ranked 38 in the world as against Richardson's 455, was dispatched 7-5, 6-4.
If we were to get really carried away we could start visualising an all- British final tomorrow; Paul Hand had launched an afternoon of home achievement by winning 6-3, 6-4 against Lan Bale, who on the opening day had ended the aspirations of Jason Stoltenberg, the No1 seed.
They are in separate semi-finals but Petr Korda now stands in Hand's way - the Berkshire 29-year-old must also begin qualifying for the Queen's tournament today - and Korda was impressive in beating Jeremy Bates, 6- 4, 6-3.
It proved to be a productive day for two British-based coaches as well. Korda is now guided by Tony Pickard, Stefan Edberg's former mentor and more recently the British Davis Cup captain. The effect, says the Czech- born left-hander, is the same as changing the family saloon from a Skoda to a Mercedes.
Richardson has been working with Peter Fleming, better known as John McEnroe's doubles partner. At one stage the 21-year-old was also preparing a breakneck journey to west London and back this morning to earn his Stella Artois ticket when more good news arrived in the shape of a wild card.
By the time Richardson was swinging successfully from great heights, Bates was on his way home intending to catch up on some sleep. His 16-month-old son Josh, exuding more energy than dad who in his own words is "lacking zip", has been disturbing the Leatherhead household at unearthly hours and it became noticeable from the ninth game of the match.
At that juncture Bates held a point for a break but then conceded 28 of the next 30 to put the contest beyond realistic recall. Mercedes-form indeed from the former Skoda man.
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