Tennis: Bailey is boxed in by power of Bates

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IT IS often said that Jeremy Bates does not possess a shot which can hurt opponents. Chris Bailey would dispute this, particularly after being floored by what he called 'a ball- breaker' as Bates advanced imperiously to a fifth singles title at the Volkswagen Nationals here.

Aside from providing A Question of Sport with a clip for 'What happened next?', the backhand volley in the privates at 30-30 in the fifth game gave Bates the first opportunity to break serve on his way to a

6-3, 6-3 victory, an almost flawless performance.

After delivering the low blow, Bates crossed the net to comfort his writhing opponent, who was asked by the umpire, Mike Morrissey, if he wanted a time-out. 'No,' Bailey replied, 'I want a box.'

Though he tried to make light of the incident, a wave of nausea did not help Bailey during the subsequent points. He was unable to reach a short service return and lost the game to go 2-3 down. Then, after cracking a spectacular return in the next game to create his only break point of the final, his attempted lob was met by an emphatic smash.

While the fourth-seeded Bailey was unsettled by the painful experience, it is doubtful that he could have come much closer to dethroning Bates, whose play throughout the week was a cut above his domestic rivals.

Bates's superiority in the final was such that he allowed Bailey only 10 points off serve. 'He's serving a lot heavier now than he was,' Bailey said. Bailey delivered six aces, all in the first set. He hit two double faults, the first of them in losing the first set.

The 25-year-old Bailey's performance at Wimbledon this year was as stirring as Bates's advance to the fourth round in 1992. The nation's top player, currently No 97 in the world, has motivated a chasing group, and vice versa.

Bailey expressed the hope that Bates would remain in the game as long as possible. 'If Jeremy keeps this up I believe he will be in the top 50,' he said, 'and I also believe he should have been there for the whole of his career, because he is that classy.'

Bates responded by saying that each time his ranking improved it was as a direct consequence of being pushed by other players in the British game. He added that he was encouraged by signs of rising standards, but cautioned against over- optimism: 'We should just let the players go along and learn their trade.'

A similar policy is advisable with regard to the women's game. Mandy Wainwright, 17, added to her recent success against the United States in the Maureen Connolly Trophy by reaching the semi-finals of the nationals. Karen Cross, 19, went a step further and reached the final.

Neither player had the experience or ability to seriously trouble Clare Wood, even though the top seed and world No 84 hit nine double faults against Wainwright and seven against Cross en route to adding to her success here in 1989 with a 7-5, 6-0 win in Saturday's final.

The 25-year-old from Sussex used to miss her second serves by slicing the ball. Now she misses with spin, which is intended to give her a greater margin for error. Wood and her coach, Nigel Sears, are confident that the spin serve will become as reliable in matches as it is during practice. If it does, a place in the world top 50 beckons.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 31