Tennis: Wimbledon '97: Whitehouse the head boy

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The Independent Online
You are never quite sure what you are seeing when you watch the boys final: future champions or budding burn-outs. Three years ago the title was won by Scott Humphries, who could well be driving the Sojourner buggy on Mars for all the impact he has made since. The runner-up, however, was Mark Philippoussis, writes Guy Hodgson.

Winners of junior Wimbledon have included Bjorn Borg, Pat Cash and Stefan Edberg but Rod Laver was slaughtered 6-1, 6-1 in the final of 1956. Nothing may breed success like success but among the boys, failure is not necessarily a full stop.

Daniel Elsner will hope not as he lost the final to South Africa's Wesley Whitehouse yesterday, halting what was confidently expected to be a swagger to the title. The German No 1 seed was beaten 6-3, 7-6 and is probably still kicking himself this morning.

Elsner has been touted as the next champion from a Rhur production line that forged Boris Becker and Michael Stich, if Tommy Hass or Nicolas Keifer do not beat him to it. He certainly has an "I don't give a first service what you think" demeanour, which is fine if you are winning but looks slightly incongruous otherwise. Only once, when he was leading 5-2 in the second set, did the keepy-uppy with the tennis ball look appropriate and he was soon tripping over his feet, losing his next serve to 30.

Whitehouse has a huge serve that secured him 12 aces to his opponent's two and that proved decisive in the tie-break, a thumping delivery proving too hot to return to win it 8-6. Not for the first time at Wimbledon, the big first stroke overwhelmed greater natural talent. But as Philippoussis has found, a good serve can take you a long way.

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