Tennis: Elite rally to the cause: Clive White reports on an attempt to lift flagging spirits

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AFTER the Davis Cup debacle in Portugal over the weekend, the British game needed a reminder of sunnier times so what better than a reunion of those battling Brits of Wimbledon '93.

Rallying round at the Royal Berkshire Club in Bracknell yesterday, ostensibly to participate in the inaugural Vauxhall Premier League Trophy, were Chris Bailey, Chris Wilkinson, Andrew Foster and Jeremy Bates. The pounds 44,000 in prize-money apart, it represented a poignant moment to assist in the grass-roots development of the domestic game, which obviously needs all the more loving care after events in Oporto.

The competition, a two-man team event which reaches its climax tomorrow, brought together four teams restricted to players who prior to this season had never won ATP points, and four invited teams made up of the elite.

The seeded draw meant that yesterday's first-round matches were somewhat lopsided but they did provide a real opportunity for the rising club player to gauge his progress against the country's finest while affording the latter the chance of a nice little earner and television exposure, via delayed broadcasts starting in May, in the build-up to Wimbledon.

Representing the David Lloyd Raynes Park club, Bailey appeared a trifle apprehensive at the outset against Philip Fowler but that may have had something to do with finding himself, to his horror, on the same 'sticky' carpet surface on which he came unstuck with a knee injury that cost him an operation and the winter off.

There was never much doubt, though, about the outcome, a 6-4, 6-3 win for the man who took Goran Ivanisevic to the brink in the second round at Wimbledon last year.

His opponent was a product of the Rover Scheme, which Tony Pickard, the Davis Cup captain, criticised at the weekend for lacking an end product. Significantly, Rover announced yesterday that 30 of its young players were about to embark on a 12-day stint at the prestigious training camp belonging to the father of Sergi Bruguera, the leading Spanish player.

Bailey's team-mate was Bates, who was in a dark mood upon his return from Portugal where he lost both singles and it required only one disputed line-call in the second game of the second set after winning the first 6-1 against Sunderland's Brent Parker to trigger further irritation. 'It's like playing tennis in Toyland,' he moaned on his way to losing the second set 6-4 against Durham's No 1. Bates won the final set 6-1.

VAUXHALL PREMIER LEAGUE TROPHY (Royal Berkshire Club, Bracknell): First round: David Lloyd Raynes Park bt Puma Sunderland B 2-0 (J Bates bt B Parker 6-1 4-6 6-1; C Bailey bt P Fowler 6-4 6-3); Matchpoint Barnhall bt Royal Berkshire B 2-0 (A Foster bt M Wyeth 6-3 3-6 6-2; J Fox bt G Saffery 7-5 6-3); Puma Sunderland A bt Clearview Brentwood 2-0 (R Matheson bt N Adams 6-3 7-5; J Baily bt A Rouse 7-6 5-7 7-5); Royal Berkshire A bt Match Point Southampton 2-0 (C Wilkinson bt N Weal 6-3 6-0; D Sapsford bt P Scullard 6-2 6-0).

(Photograph omitted)