Tennis: McNeil wins with minimal effort

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The Independent Online
IN cricket it would be called the West Indies effect. That is: everything else looks easy to thump to the boundary after Curtly, Courtney and colleagues have been trying to knock your block off from whites-of-their-eyes range.

Lori McNeil had faced what in women's tennis stands in for a six- foot-plus fast bowler with malevolent intent, Brenda Schultz's serve, in the DFS Classic on Saturday so when it came to yesterday's final and Zina Garrison Jackson's gentle medium pacers, the ball looked to be on its hands and knees asking to be knocked for the equivalent of a four or a six.

The outcome was a 6-2, 6-2 romp in 67 minutes, which was as one-sided as the scoreline suggests. Indeed McNeil, who collected pounds 15,161 for her victory and who has now won one of Britain's pre- Wimbledon grass-court championships in each of the last three years, can rarely have had to work so little to win a final.

Garrison Jackson, a Wimbledon finalist four years ago, said she was tired after playing three matches the previous day and, frankly, she looked it. It was a laboured, weary top seed who was on Edgbaston Priory's Centre Court yesterday.

'It happened to me last year,' McNeil conceded. 'I had to play three matches the day before the final and it caught up with me.' McNeil generously chose to omit that, 12 months ago, she not only won the singles - also beating Garrison Jackson in the final - but the doubles too.

Yesterday's match turned on the fourth game. Garrison had two break points for a 3-1 lead but when she squandered those the zest seemed to seep away from her. She was broken to 15 in the next and surrendered nine successive games before she stopped the slide. By then it was too late.

'We grew up with each other, went to the same school and shared the same coach for 12 years,' McNeil said, 'so it is always an extra- emotional match when we meet. It's like I'm playing my sister.'

Any association between a contest and yesterday's match was relative too.

A steady downpour interrupted yesterday's second semi-final in the Florence men's clay court tournament. After the delay, the Austrian Eric Fromberg beat Germany's Bernd Karbacher, 6-4, 7-6. Earlier, Uruguay's Marcelo Filippini had defeated the Italian Paolo Cane, 6-1, 6-2.

(Photograph omitted)