Tennis: Battling British women follow each other into a dead-end street: Domestic trio fall to crushing defeats by the seeds in Birmingham

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THE encouraging signs that British men's tennis just might have turned a corner do not appear to have extended to the women. Or, at least, if they have then the bend they have taken has led to a place bearing a striking resemblance to a cul-de-sac.

Three home players took part in the first round of the DFS Classic and none managed to make it to the second. An old, familiar story was played out on the lawns at Edgbaston Priory: Britain 0, Rest of the World 3.

True, the opponents that Jo Durie, Monique Javer and Claire Taylor faced were all seeds, but there was hope that, on the surface that best suits British players, there might be an upset. A forlorn hope it proved to be, with only one set gained between the three of them.

Durie, 34 next month, won that token and probably should have beaten Elna Reinach, the 13th seed, given that she led 6-4, 3-1. The advantage passed between the players almost as frequently as the ball, however, and ultimately it settled on the South African's side to the tune of a 4-6, 6-3,

6-3 success.

'I can't believe I played as well as that and lost,' Durie, who was playing her first match in nine weeks, said. 'It's very frustrating. The positive thing is that if I continue in that form I know I'll shoot up the rankings.'

Durie, the world No 373 and falling, has had surgery on both knees in the past 12 months and was making a comeback from a wrist injury incurred during the Federation Cup qualifiers in April. 'I think my body's telling me it's nearly time to go,' she said. 'I hope to play at this Wimbledon and the next, but after that who knows? I'd like to keep going for as long as I can.'

Javer, the British No 2, lingered for only 51 minutes before going down 6-3, 6-1 to another South African, Joanette Kruger, while Taylor lost 6-1, 6-4 to the 15th seed, Laura Golarsa of Italy. Taylor's defeat arrived like a landslide when she surrendered a 4-3 advantage, which included a break of serve, by gaining only two points in the next three games.