Tennis: Wimbledon - Wilkinson feels at home again

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The Independent Online
ON THE day that Greg Rusedski limped out of Wimbledon it was back to an earlier age for Britain. Tim Henman won but so did Chris Wilkinson, a player who kept the home fires burning at the start of the Nineties.

Wilkinson defeated Mark Knowles of the Bahamas 7-5, 6-0, 6-1, which was a scoreline that looked unlikely when the 28-year-old from Southampton was 15-40 down on his serve in the first set. He held and then shot past his opponent to recall his three successive trips to the third round.

"That's my target again," he said. "I feel relaxed but it's a funny feeling. I've always done well at Wimbledon and to begin with I was thinking `it's got to stop some time'. I was apprehensive at first but once I got in my stride I enjoyed it."

Which is not how Andrew Richardson would have described his day. It is a paradoxical thought that if he had played Hicham Arazi at almost any other sport yesterday but he would probably have won. Basketball, rugby union, no problem, what a shame then that they had to meet on a tennis court.

At 6ft 7in Richardson, who, surprisingly is from Peterborough not from the leafy end of Jack's beanstalk, was 10 inches taller than his opponent but size is not everything as the score of 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 proved. In fact, it is probably a hindrance.

Richardson has a ferocious serve and a reach that rivals Concorde's wing- span but while it is like trying to get over the Empire State Building when you attempt a lob, it takes him some time to bring his racket down from the clouds and Arazi wonderfully exploited that weakness.

The Moroccan is a wonderful mixture of enterprise and daring and his ability to produce shots that few other players can dream of never mind execute would give him a much better world ranking than 59 if modern rackets had not put most of the aces in the hands of six-footers.

Not so many that it prevented Richardson contemplating his future after yesterday's defeat. "I've reached the point where I don't have any belief," he said, while announcing he intends to take a rest from the sport. "When I play well it's more of a relief than enjoyment."

Richardson was also critical of the coaching at the national training centre at Bisham Abbey, saying: "I don't think it was good for me as a player or a person. I see boys there now and I know what they are going through." What is wrong? "If anyone from the Lawn Tennis Association comes to see me I'll tell them."

Richardson went quickly, Barry Cowan took the slow exit from the first round. The 23-year-old from Southport was on the verge of losing the third set against Germany's Hendrik Dreekman before the rain brought things to a halt on Tuesday evening but it was nearly 4pm yesterday before he finally succumbed.

Cowan restored parity by winning the fourth set 6-3 only to lose his second serve in the decider. Even so he saved three match points before going down 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in 3hr 29min.

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