Tennis: Durie a victim of Cross purpose

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The Independent Online
JO DURIE'S damaged right knee eventually let her down in the semi- finals of the Volkswagen National Championships here yesterday and Karen Cross, a 19-year-old from Exeter, was able to hold her nerve and capitalise on the opportunity to advance to the final.

Defeating the handicapped seven- times champion, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, was one thing; coping with Clare Wood, the fit and eager British No 1, in today's final is likely to prove to be another. None the less, the fourth- seeded Cross is already guaranteed pounds 4,500 in prize-money, plus membership of an exclusive club. She is only the third player to beat Durie in the 10 years of the Nationals.

Since taking the title with a win against Virginia Wade in the 1983 final, Durie's only previous defeats were to Jo Louis in the third round in 1985 and Wood in the semi-finals in 1989, when the Sussex player went on the win the championship. A shoulder injury in 1988 cost Durie a place in the semi-finals, Devon's Valda Lake receiving a walkover.

Durie's next appearance will be in an operating theatre. 'I want to be back here next year,' the 33-year-old said. 'I hope I'll be a bit fitter and I hope I will have been playing on the tour and winning a few matches.'

Though the left-handed Cross has never won a British junior title, she has been prepared to travel in search of world ranking points. Unranked in January 1992, she has climbed to No 336 and won a satellite tournament in Istanbul in July.

Durie, who had not dropped a set in the previous rounds, had a pain- killing injection before and during the semi-final. She was able keep her mind off the tendinitis in her knee until her serve was broken in the opening game of the second set. 'I was 40-0 and then played five bad points,' she said. 'I completely lost my concentration. All I could think about was my knee.'

She gave Cross credit for taking her chance. 'She was playing it right, trying to play deep to the corners so I had to run,' she said. 'It's a good thing she beat me. She had to beat me today and I'm glad she had the nerve to do it. I hope she can give Clare a good game tomorrow.'

Wood won a fierce-hitting duel against the 17-year-old Mandy Wainwright 6-2, 6-2. The 25-year-old from Brighton was rarely troubled, in spite of nine double faults, the final three of them coming in a cluster in game five of the second set.

Cross's coach, Shirley Brasher, is left with the dilemma of having two runners on different courses: Cross in the one o'clock at Telford and Princess Hotpot in the 4.10 at Chepstow. The former French champion entered her mare for the EBS novice hurdle, not expecting to be preparing her tennis novice for a final. She will probably have time to support both.

Jeremy Bates, the men's defending champion, advanced to today's semi- finals with a 7-5, 7-6 win against the eighth-seeded Tim Henman, but not before the 19-year-old from Oxford had again shown himself to be a competitor with potential.

Bates now plays Colin Beecher, an unseeded 23-year-old from Kent who has delighted in upsetting form. Having eliminated Mark Petchey, the third seed, in the opening round, Beecher accounted for the fifth-seeded Andrew Foster in the quarter-finals 6-4, 6-4. Chris Bailey, the fourth seed, defeated Andrew Richardson 7-6, 6-4 and faces Miles Maclagan, who eliminated Danny Sapsford 6-4, 6-7, 6-4.