Tennis: Bates brings house down: Britain's leading player flies the flag before a nine-times champion takes over Centre Court ovations

MIDDLE Saturday is when Wimbledon goes native. And it did so in a big way yesterday when Jeremy Bates produced a performance of wonderful skill and nerve to earn himself a place in the tournament's last 16 for the second time in three years and keep the Centre Court crowd enthralled.

The British No 1, 32 a week ago, is enjoying one of his best periods in a professional career that stretches back to 1982. He won his first title earlier this year in Seoul, and at Queen's three weeks ago beat Boris Becker. But for tension and drama, few moments could match this one as Bates overcame the formidable challenge of the 6ft 5in German, Markus Zoecke, 6-4 6-4

3-6 6-3 in two hours 35 minutes.

In the last 16 of 1992 - the only other time he has got this far at Wimbledon in 13 appearances - Bates met Guy Forget of France and had a match point before losing in five sets. By a quirk of the draw it is the same man he will playing tomorrow, Forget having beaten Jakob Hlasek in straight sets. It will not be easy - Forget beat Bates decisively in the Beckenham final earlier this month - but Bates has every reason to feel full of confidence.

It was a memorable afternoon, virtually amounting to a celebration of British sport as Tom Finney, among other athletic alumni, gazed down from the Royal Box. Tennis does not usually figure when the nation gets self-congratulatory, but that is starting to change. With Andrew Foster in 1993, there has now been a British man in the last 16 of Wimbledon for three years running.

Wimbledon has seen some awesome serving down the years, but rarely anything to match the bludgeoning power of Zoecke, who had knocked out Petr Korda in the previous round. He produced 22 aces and equalled the record for the fastest serve ever recorded at Wimbledon when he sent the ball towards Bates at 134mph.

But Bates took it all in his stride. 'It was important to go on and start the match with this frame of mind, that I was just going to have to accept all the aces and unreturnables and not let it get frustrating,' he said.

Luckily for Bates, Zoecke's game did not extend much beyond his serve. When it came to the tennis proper, there was only one man in it, apart from a spell in the third set when Bates got into his only difficulties.

But as he has pointed out recently, the difference between the mature Bates and the one who used to tantalise us but little more is that now he is much less hard on himself in times of trouble than he used to be.

Not that he was in any trouble for a long time yesterday. On the day that Wimbledon keeps back 2,000 Centre Court tickets for the so-called real fans, and jazz bands set up in the car park, Bates's noticeably relaxed approach was entirely appropriate.

Bates took the first set in 33 minutes, breaking Zoecke in the fifth game. Although reconciled to losing a lot of points on Zoecke's serve, Bates made the most of those serves he did manage to reach, thanks to some inspired guesswork and the natural timing that has always been his gift. The break came when Bates sent a dipping return of serve to the feet of Zoecke, whose giant frame was not designed for such situations. He duly netted.

Bates's own serve - top speed a mere 102mph - needed to be accurate, and it was. He conceded only five points on it in the first set, moving swiftly to the net and hitting his volleys with precision and purpose. Zoecke looked primitive by comparison.

Bates made an even better start to the second set, breaking Zoecke in the opening game. But then came his first big test. At 40-30 in the next game Bates allowed his impeccable standards to slip and he volleyed carelessly into the net. There followed seven deuces and four break-points to Zoecke, which Bates eventually survived to come through with his equanimity apparently intact.

It was a clear sign that Bates could cope with a certain amount of pressure. But how much? We were to find out in the third set when Bates, having broken Zoecke again in the opening game and looking poised for victory serving at 2-1, suddenly disappeared into a dark hole and lost four games on the trot. Now the ungainly Zoecke was beginning to find his range with his groundstrokes, and it looked as if Bates might struggle.

He never lost his poise, though, and the fourth set went virtually all Bates's way until he stood ready to serve at 5-3, 'and the noise was just incredible . . . I thought the whole place was going to fall down'.

Bates survived a break point at 30-40, getting to match point when a second serve landed on the line and Zoecke returned long. Bates took his time, went to toss the ball up . . . and broke off. The ball had stuck in his hand. Bates, recalling that exactly the same thing had happened on match point against Forget two years ago, then relieved the tension with a histrionic tremble worthy of Andre Agassi.

You wondered whether this uncharacteristic piece of showmanship was altogether wise, the more so when Zoecke hit a winner with his backhand return. But again Bates proved us wrong, surviving another break point, getting himself back to match point and winning it with an assured volley. A first week full of incident had saved its best - domestically speaking - until last.

(Photograph omitted)

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Key Account Manager, Medical

£35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

Key Account Manager, Medical

£35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

Medical Customer Interface Manager

competitive: Real Staffing: My client requires an experienced Medical Informat...

Senior Technical Project Assistant - Hampshire - up to 45K

£40000 - £45000 per annum + 23 days holiday, pension scheme: Deerfoot IT Resou...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice