Tennis: Bates is beaten in straight sets by fit-again Forget

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The Independent Online
JEREMY BATES fell at the final hurdle at Beckenham yesterday as the Frenchman Guy Forget continued his brave comeback from injury.

Forget, once the world No 4, beat Bates 6-2, 6-3 in a one-sided final of the Direct Line Insurance tournament in only his second competition after 14 months out with knee problems.

The Frenchman stepped out on to the centre court to play Bates just half an hour after completing a tough semi-final win over Australia's Jason Stoltenberg, which he won 6-3, 6-7, 7-6.

Bates, too, had played his semi- final earlier in the day, but finished his 6-2, 7-5 win over the unseeded Australian Wayne Arthurs an hour and 50 minutes before the final began.

The semi-finals had been held over from Saturday after rain had wiped out play. Bates broke Arthurs' serve twice in the first set, his accurate returns causing the big-serving Australian real problems. In the second set Bates, 93 in the world, got the crucial break in the 11th game.

The last time Bates met the Frenchman was two years ago at Wimbledon, where the Briton had one match-point in their fourth- round game, before going down in five sets.

This time, though, Bates, who had not dropped a set in four matches on the way to the final, was never really in the contest against the French power-server. He was broken in the fourth game of the first set and had only one break-point as he went down 6-2, five double-faults undermining the British No 1's chances.

In the second set Bates battled to hold his serve, surviving five break-points in the fourth game, but he was eventually broken in the eighth and Forget served out to win the match.

Bates admitted: 'I think Guy started a bit quicker than me. I agreed to play quickly after his semi-final, so it was not thrust upon me.

'But he looked like he hadn't stopped. He is an athlete. He is fit enough to play for 10 hours. He didn't look tired and I didn't see any crutches around. He served very well. He hit a lot of aces and he was very accurate. It placed extra pressure on my serve, which was pretty up and down.'

Forget, who was unseeded for Beckenham and has slipped to 1,175 in the world rankings, said: 'There are still a few areas of my game which can be improved. I need to work on my mobility and footwork. Overall I'm happy with my progress. I think I'm at 75-80 per cent capacity now, so I'm just pleased to get games in.'

Both now go on to the Stella Artois tournament at London's Queen's Club, where Bates faces France's Guillaume Raoux and Forget takes on Zimbabwe's Byron Black in the first round.