Smith rediscovers appetite

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The Independent Online
Samantha Smith, regarded as one of British tennis's nearly women when she left the professional circuit three years ago, is back in competition and may well prove her doubters wrong.

Competing here in her second World Student Games, Smith has already cruised past the No 9 seed, Germany's Sabine Gerke, and yesterday beat Alexandra Rohner, of Switzerland, without the loss of a single game.

Smith's decision to go to university in Exeter to finish her education in 1992, after reaching No 103 in the world - a height rarely seen by British players - was a considerable blow to the future of British tennis. Disillusioned with the sport, Smith did not pick up a racket for almost a year, but the prospect of playing for Great Britain in the World Student Games in 1993, motivated her return. "I had no desire at all to play tennis ever again in 1992, but the Buffalo Games inspired me just at the right time and now I feel I'm getting better every time I play."

Even after winning bronze she had no immediate desire to return to the professional circuit. But playing some of the Reebok Tour events that summer made her realise she still had the ability. The tournament at Telford in September has been pencilled in for Smith's return, as she seeks appearances in three main satellite events to receive a world ranking.

Until then, Smith will concentrate on the next round of the Student Games, where she faces the No 7 seed, Switzerland's Patricia Maskova.

Sue Rich, the British team manager and coach, is optimistic about her return. "If Sam realises the need to work hard and how good the standard is, she could certainly be British No 1. Whether she'll make the top hundred in the world or better remains to be seen."

Elsewhere at the Games, Michael Holt won an unexpected judo bronze medal in the under-66 kilo category.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 27