Tennis: Henman leads the young lions: Lloyd makes progress despite distractions while Durie prepares to pass the pain barrier again

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The Independent Online
TODAY at least dawns with a brighter aspect for British tennis. Four of the younger players have advanced to challenge the established order at the Volkswagen National Championships here.

Tim Henman, 19, will attempt to deny Jeremy Bates a fifth singles title; Andrew Richardson meets the No 2 seed, Chris Bailey; Karen Cross, 19, is the next hurdle on Jo Durie's path to a seventh success; Mandy Wainwright, 17, stands between the top-seeded Clare Wood and a place in the final.

Spectators have also enjoyed the novelty of seeing the past alongside the future with John Lloyd, 39, and Jamie Delgado, 16, progressing to a meeting with Bates and Mark Petchey in the doubles semi-finals. Delgado lost to Richards in the first round of the singles.

Lloyd, the former British No 1, has never played the Nationals before, and the principal purpose of his visit from California was to hold coaching clinics. He has done well to hold his concentration considering that his wife, Deborah, is close to the forest fires back home in Malibu. 'They've got it more or less under control,' he said, 'but her bags are packed.'

Having watched Delgado and Henman as boys at his brother David's tennis school, Lloyd was impressed by the power with which both now strike the ball. He agreed that the overall standards were improving in the British game, while adding the customary rider that: 'There's still a long way to go.'

Henman, last year's British junior champion, has gained stature in every sense. He has grown six inches to 6ft 1in and increased his weight by two stones to 11st in the past 12 months while travelling the globe and winning enough matches to improve his ATP Tour ranking to 415 from 774. His efforts have been rewarded by selection for the European Team Cup in Italy next month along with Danny Sapsford and Miles Maclagan, who meet in today's quarter-finals.

Henman's achievement so far this week has been to justify his eighth seeding. He overcame the crisis of being broken when serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set of yesterday's contest with Nick Adams, a qualifier from Essex, to win, 6-1, 6-7, 6-1.

Bates has practised with Henman, but this will be their first match. 'He's a nice bloke,' the defending champion said, 'and everybody is hoping he'll get up there in the rankings.'

Wainwright, No 3, and Cross, No 4, have also advanced to their projected semi-final places. Both were members of the Maureen Connolly Trophy team who defeated the United States in Stirling last month.

With Durie preparing for knee surgery after the tournament, Cross is well aware that she could hardly have chosen a better time to play the defending champion. 'I'm playing well, and Jo is not totally fit at the moment,' she said. 'I'm going to try not to think about who I'm playing and just play the ball.'

Wainwright has twice been taken to three sets so far. Yesterday she saved a set point at 4-5 in the opening set of her quarter-final against Alison Smith, and then lost the second set. Her response was emphatic: 7-5, 4-6, 6-0. Wood, who has yet to drop a set, tuned up with a 6-3, 6-4 win against Valda Lake.

VOLKSWAGEN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS (Telford): Men's quarter-finals: J Bates v T Henman; C Beecher v A Foster; A Richardson v C Bailey; M Maclagan v D Sapsford.

(Photograph omitted)

Results, Sampras survives, page 39