Tennis: Davis Cup: Bates fails to make an impact: Britain off to bad start in Davis Cup

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THE Davis Cup tie between Hungary and Britain here on Margit Island must be among the most low key of international sporting events, though not for the players, particularly the visitors, whose pride was severely tested yesterday. Britain trail 2-0, which means that today's rubber could turn out to be an eraser.

Jeremy Bates, for so long the stalwart, was unable to lift the team's spirits on this occasion. He lost the second match, against Hungary's No 2, Sandor Noszaly, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3,

3-6, 6-1, in three hours and 38 minutes. Noszaly, No 337 in the world, is the lowest ranked player to defeat Bates, ranked No 77, in a live rubber.

Though Noszaly has to his credit a win against Andres Gomez, the former French Open champion, he was not expected to deal so punitively with the British No 1. Though tall and powerful, it seemed only a question of time until the Hungarian's resources waned. This did not happen. Not only did he hit 15 aces, but Bates missed opportunities along the way.

Chris Wilkinson, the 23-year-old from Southampton, selected for his first live rubber, had earlier been defeated, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5, by Hungary's No 1, Josef Kroschko, an immigrant from the Ukraine, in two hours and 20 minutes.

Kroschko, without playing spectacular tennis, was far too steady for Wilkinson once the players had worked the nervous tension out of their systems. It seemed that Wilkinson's problems really began when he queried a line call in the eighth game. Though the British player gained an overrule in his favour, the incident appeared to affect his concentration. He was broken in the next game, and Kroschko served out the set.

What can be said in Wilkinson's favour is that he made an encouraging contest of the third set. He saved three break points in the opening game and recovered from a break of serve in the fifth game to level at 3-3. Momentarily, there was even hope that the Briton would extend the match at least into a fourth set when he was two points from winning the third set, but Kroschko recovered and broke Wilkinson in the 11th game.

We must now await the outcome of today's doubles, in which Bates and Chris Bailey (or Mark Petchey) face Lazlo Markovits and Andros Lanyi, who both play college tennis in California, to see if Great Britain can keep the tie alive into a third day.

DAVIS CUP EURO-AFRICA ZONE Second round (Budapest): Hungary lead Great Britain 2-0: Singles: J Kroschko (Hung) bt C Wilkinson (GB) 6-4 6-2 7-5; S Noszaly (Hung) bt J Bates (GB) 6-2 4-6 6-3 3-6 6-1.