Tennis: Wilkinson's short warm-up

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The Independent Online
AROUND THIS time of the year Chris Wilkinson, who could normally walk around his native Southampton with barely anyone taking notice, suddenly becomes a British hero. Some people are overnight sensations; he has a week.

Come Wimbledon, the British No 3 usually grabs the early attention, and his draw will not dissuade him from making a similar impact this time. Gustavo Kuerten will be the 11th seed next week, but as he has never won a match at the All England Club, the Brazilian offers the hope of glory without the normal risk.

"It's a good opportunity and a great player," Wilkinson said. "On a grass court it could be different. The surface suits my game and I don't fear anybody. I'll just give it a go."

Unfortunately, he will be launching his Wimbledon campaign without a lengthy stay at the Nottingham Open because he went out 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 in the first round to Australia's Andrew Ilie. The rankings - 62nd in the world compared to 200th - suggested he would, but when Wilkinson sees the green, green grass of home you never can tell.

Level at one-set all overnight, he lost the decider in 41 minutes, dropping his third serve of the day when he netted a half-volley after Ilie's backhand had clipped the net. After that, the match went with serve although both players felt they had been handicapped by faulty line calls.

"The conditions were different from Monday night," Wilkinson said. "It was a lot heavier and I couldn't get any weight on my shots for some reason." The calls? "The last two serves were long," he replied. "What can you do?"

Sargis Sargsian could well be asking the same question because the Armenian who defeated Greg Rusedski at Queen's last week and reached the semi-finals, crashed to turf when he lost 6-2, 6-4 to France's Sebastien Grosjean. Like Wilkinson, he will hope it is no indicator of what will happen next week.

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