Tennis: Petchey chases away his barren period

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These are strange times for British tennis. There were years when a player was guaranteed a Davis Cup place if he looked like winning a match at Wimbledon; these days even historic victories are not good enough.

Mark Petchey, who last week was discarded from the British team to meet the Ukraine in Kiev next month, defeated the German Tommy Haas 7-6, 6- 4, 6-2 yesterday, which meant Britain had four men through to the third round for the first time since the game went open in 1968.

Riches indeed, and a success that has come when the 26-year-old Petchey, 207 in the world, had been sinking fast. "I haven't been playing well for months now," he said. "I think it was inevitable I would miss out on the team. David Lloyd had to make his decision."

Ahead 7-6, 3-3 overnight, Petchey had every reason to fear a backlash against the 19-year-old Haas, who has been identified as the next Boris Becker almost since he turned pro last year. The German arrived as the 80th best player in the world but was chased off the lawns by a rejuvenated Petchey.

Returning with a precision he does not always possess, Petchey broke to 30 in the 10th game to take the second set and then raced to 4-0 in the third before Haas played on his nerves by breaking back. The end came after 1hr 53min when the German served a double-fault. "It was big for me today," Petchey said. "I mean really big. I just kept losing in the the second round of Wimbledon."

Petchey, who has defeated Michael Stich, Thomas Muster and Michael Chang in the past, attributed his win yesterday to a reunion with his erstwhile coach, Nigel Sears, a month before Wimbledon. The two split in April last year - "We both said we had enough, but lack of progress since caused a re-think."

"After a year of being on my own," Petchey said, "I said `look I'm losing a bit of my way here'. Nigel really motivates me. He's keen and lively and fun to have around. I think that's the key, just to enjoy life."

Having played the new Becker, Petchey will have the chance of enjoying playing the prototype today. "It's a tough draw," he said of the three- times champion whom he has never met before, "but to me to get out there against the best in the world is what tennis is all about. You can't not want to play Boris Becker. I'm fortunate enough to get that opportunity."

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