Tennis: Petchey happy to join the hundred club

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The Independent Online
WHEN it comes to British tennis you have to accept whatever crumbs come your way. It may not merit celebrations in the United States when an American reaches the top 100, but when one of our men cracks it you suspect someone, somewhere at the Lawn Tennis Association gets on his knees and gives thanks to something up there.

Yesterday, Mark Petchey made it into the hundred club for the first time and while he did not exactly barge the door down, he at least got there with the shove of a straight sets win in the Manchester Open. In doing so, Britain managed to have two players among the elite for the first time since 1988.

With a 6-3, 6-4 win over the American Steve Bryan, Petchey joined Jeremy Bates, ranked 80th, who has been out on his own as a Union Jack standard bearer since he and Andrew Castle last formed a double-pronged presence in the top 100. It was an ambition achieved.

'It's a matter of pride,' Petchey said. 'Every player wants to get into the 100 and this is a big breakthrough. I've been close to it for two months and it was very much on my mind. I knew I had to do it over the next few weeks.'

Petchey's urgency was due to a shortage of events on his best surface, grass, and he had the good fortune yesterday to meet a player who approaches lawns with the enthusiasm of a hay-fever sufferer. Although he is ranked 83rd in the world, Bryan had never won a match on the stuff until his first-round match on Monday. To compound his sense of alienation, he was also suffering from an arm injury.

But you can only beat the man against you and Petchey, whose march up the rankings this year has included a win over Michael Stich, did so comprehensively enough.

After a patchy start, in which both men experienced problems holding serve, the British No 2 made the fifth and decisive break for the first set and followed up by breaking again in the first game of the second.

It was then a matter of holding his own serve, which he did with varying degrees of certainty. In the last game, the nerves were showing and he allowed a 40-0 lead slip to deuce. But on his fourth match point, he prevailed to become only the third home player, after Bates and Nick Brown, to reach the quarter-finals since this tournament became an ATP Tour event in 1990.

Bates, meanwhile, allayed fears that he might miss Wimbledon because of an an ankle injury when he fulfilled his doubles commitment. He and Christo Van Rensberg beat Chris Bailey and Barry Cowan.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 39