Tennis: Bailey gets a lift on his way to victory

CHRIS BAILEY reached the semi-finals of the Direct Line Insurance championships with a

6-7, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Roger Smith of the Bahamas yesterday, writes Mike Donovan from Beckenham.

Bailey's triumph follows British success earlier in the event. Danny Sapsford defeated the No 1 seed Brad Gilbert and Neil Broad reached the fourth round with an impressive win against the 12th seed Tommy Ho, from the United States.

Bailey, from Norfolk, served and volleyed in uncompromising style to brush aside Smith. He lost the first set tie-break 7-2 after having two set points. But he broke the Bahamian in the second and then came through after breaking Smith again in the 11th game of the third set.

The 6ft 5in Bailey used the strength of his serve and his swift movement about the court for such a big man to great advantage. Smith buckled as one after the other of Bailey's powerful passing shots went past him.

Bailey, who has slipped to 321 in the world because of injury, had a fillip during the match. against an opponent ranked 198. He said: 'An official came up to me during the first set and told me that I had got a wild card into the Stella Artois tournament at Queen's next week. I reached the quarter-finals there four years ago and it was a great boost for me. I thought: 'I'm really going to go for it'.'

Martina Navratilova, making her first visit to suburban Kent, beat Linda Harvey-Wild to reach today's final. Sporting and smiling as she exacted full revenge for her defeat at Eastbourne last summer, Navratilova swept to an emphatic 6-3, 6-1 victory in an hour.

The nine-times Wimbledon champion, and the most successful woman player in tennis history, will now attempt to secure what would be her 164th title against Kristie Boogert of the Netherlands. In the battle of the blonde pony-tails, Boogert, world-ranked 96, overcame the Australian Kristine Radford

6-4, 6-2, to earn her first meeting with Navratilova.

Apart from Chris Bailey, four other players have been given wild-card entries for Queen's: Jakob Hlasek of Switzerland and the Britons Mark Petchey, Chris Wilkinson and Andrew Foster.