Tennis: Bates pulls rank on Foster: The British No 1 puts the young pretender firmly in his place

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IT IS one thing tripping up strangers, quite another discomforting someone strutting around the local roost. Andrew Foster, the nation's Wimbledon hero 10 days ago, crash landed into reality in the second round of the men's singles at the pounds 35,000 Bristol Challenger Trophy yesterday when he succumbed to the man who has been the country's No 1 for almost as long as the 21-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent has been playing.

Rank has had little relevance to Foster these past few weeks. At Wimbledon he beat three men who the computer would barely put on the same court and it was only when he realised a quarter-final place was barred by the world's best player, Pete Sampras, that he remembered to start tugging the forelock.

So 31-year-old Jeremy Bates would represent a juicy target. Except that he has been the Britain's best male player for six years and when you have been staring up at him for so long respect is natural. Seniority counts in this country and last year's hero beat this year's 7-5, 6-4.

It was not easy by any means. For his first five service games Foster lost only one point. 'His serve is enormous,' Bates said, 'it's right up there with Richard Krajicek's so all I could do was stay with him and hope he made a mistake. His confidence is high and if he had a chance to beat me this was it.'

The chance went with a lapse of concentration. Bates's experience told him to wait for his opportunity while Foster's rawness fretted that he was not making progress. With this psychological imbalance the younger man was always more likely to crack. The fissure appeared with two double faults in the 11th game and instead of Foster's service domination, Bates got 80 per cent of his first serves in.

Britain is a dominant force here, so much so that three home semi-finalists are guaranteed. Among the contenders are Chris Bailey, another whose Wimbledon experience thrust him into the public eye, and Chris Wilkinson, who instigated the run of good domestic results by beating Goran Ivanisevic at Queen's Club last month.

Wilkinson had the fortune to meet Gary Muller on a day when the South African had to retire with a groin injury at 6-3, 2-1 down but Bailey defeated the 1991 finalist, Sweden's Peter Nyborg, a man he had never beaten. He won 7-5, 6-7,

6-3, saying: 'It was always going to be a tough draw.'

It is not a Grand Slam or even more than a 35 grand tournament but so far British players, home-only matches apart, have been impervious to hurt.

Jason Stoltenberg, of Australia, beat Switzerland's Marc Rosset, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 yesterday to reach the last eight of the Swiss Open in Gstaad.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 35