Tennis / Wimbledon '94: Bates is at peace on his patch: Guy Hodgson watches the British No 1 on his happy hunting ground - Familiarity breeds more home success on Court 14 while the leading women assert themselves following Graf's departure

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The Independent Online
JEREMY BATES did not wiggle a la Chris Wilkinson when he won yesterday, he just waved at the crowd and then wrapped his arms metaphorically around the scene of his triumph. Court 14 is his favourite part of Wimbledon. His stage, if a British tennis player can safely be accused of bestriding anywhere.

The country's No 1 asked for his second-round match against Joern Renzenbrink to be held there and he duly rewarded the Order of Play Committee with a 6-2, 7-6, 6-4 victory. Court 14 was the scene of his very first win at Wimbledon in 1987, while one of the great wins of his career, over Michael Chang two years ago, was also there.

'It's where I like playing best,' Bates, who joined Wilkinson in the last 32, said. 'Maybe I'll get a plaque on the back or something when I croak. 'My court'.' Given that it took the All England Club 50 years to commemorate Fred Perry with a statue, his chances are not great. Perry only won the championship three times after all.

Bates was on his favoured ground and the man he played yesterday was a visible reminder of his most precious moment. Renzenbrink was his opponent when he won his only tournament of his career in South Korea three months ago, becoming the first Briton to win on the ATP Tour for 17 years.

A Seoul date, but not a soul-mate as Renzenbrink is not someone you would welcome with open arms on to any court. At 6ft 5in he powers down his serves from a height where you would expect to see snow spray from the ball when it makes contact and the first game was ominous. The German made four huge swipes with his arm and an equal number of points were accrued.

Renzenbrink is very much a boom or bust operator, however, and for every winner he thumped an error followed close behind. 'I thought it would be tough to break him,' Bates said, but he confounded himself by doing just that in the third and seventh games.

Bates then had to recover from 5-3 down in the second set but, partly helped by his opponent's inclination to serve double faults - 15 in all - he turned that round and won the tie-break 7-3. 'Even when you're two sets up it's still a long way to go in a five-set match,' Bates said. 'But he started to get down a little bit, you can sense it and see it. So the third set I felt more comfortable.'

Even so the set went with serve until the 10th game when two searing ground- strokes from Bates opened a chink of opportunity and Renzenbrink converted it into a chasm by successive double faults. He then stepped into one himself by joining his countryman, Michael Stich, in abandoning convention and walking off court before Bates was ready.

Bates, 32, is within a round of his finest Wimbledon performance two years ago when he was one good serve of defeating Guy Forget, who took care of Jim Courier yesterday, and reaching the quarter- finals. 'I'm playing better now,' he said. 'I am more aware of what I have to do to make myself feel good.

'I used to practise to a ridiculous extent, working until I was ready to drop and then I'd go into the gym. Now I concentrate on shorter, specific things for sharpness rather than stamina. As I'm getting on it's more important to be quick.'

But not so quick that he would be emulating Wilkinson's impression of Roger Milla, the Cameroon footballer. 'I'll leave that to the babies,' he said. 'These youngsters, these 22-year-olds.'