Smith ready for another examination by Durie

Tennis
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The Independent Online
Tennis

JOHN ROBERTS

reports in Telford

Today's women's singles semi-finals at the Guardian Direct National Championships provide an interesting mixture. Clare Wood, the No 1, meets Amanda Janes, a 17-year-old qualifier with a world ranking of No 793, and Jo Durie, the Dame Vera Lynn of the British game, faces play-it-again Sam Smith, a 23-year-old newly restored to the sport from university.

With respect to Durie, a 35-year-old who has won the title on seven occasions and is taking a week out of retirement, it would serve the cause best if Smith advances to the final, and everyone who has been charmed by Janes's refreshing style will hope that her serve and volley game tests the top seed.

The daughter of Christine Janes, nee Truman, who performed with distinction in an era when Britain produced international champions, capitalised on her victory against the seventh seed, Lucie Ahl, by flummoxing the third seed, Karen Cross, in the quarter-finals, 6-3, 7-5.

"I break up their rhythm in certain ways because I'm coming in all the time," young Janes said. "I think it must be a shock to them. They don't get a chance to rally, that's the theory.''

An excellent notion it is, too, in an age when the majority of players are schooled to launch missiles from the baseline. Perhaps Janes's natural talent should be shielded from the squad training system.

Durie observed that "nowadays on the tour, if you have something different - a sliced backhand, or you come in to the net - it really helps. I think it's the game of the future.''

The former world No 5 added: "I'm a bit puzzled about the way Amanda forms some of her strokes, but they are effective. She has a lovely sliced backhand and a powerful serve. She comes in on the right balls and just needs to tighten up her volleys.''

Durie, the fourth seed, accounted for another British prospect, the 19- year-old Mandy Wainwright, 6-2, 6-3. "I know Mandy wanted to beat me badly, but I can still play pretty good tennis when I play well and without pain," Durie said. "I came to Telford to enjoy myself, to play for fun, without nerves. I'm not getting myself into an absolute knot, as I did when I played.''

Wood ended an impressive sequence of results by the 17-year-old Jasmine Choudhury, 6-1, 6-3. The qualifier from Cambridge had a break point in the opening game, three more in the second game of the second set, and managed to break back to 3-3, helped by Wood's double-faults, before the Sussex player's experience proved decisive.

Smith, the eighth seed, defeated the No 2, Lizzie Jelfs, who was Britain's highest-ranked woman a few weeks ago, 6-2, 7-5. In 1991, the year before Smith opted for a degree course in history, she played Durie in the semi- finals here. Durie won in straight sets after saving a set point in the first set with the aid of a net cord.

Tim Henman, the third seed, advanced to the men's singles quarter-finals with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win against Andrew Richardson and plays the 18-year-old Jamie Delgado, who was a semi-finalist last year.

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