Britain's got talents on the courts (at last)
Five new names enter world's top 100, but search for next Murray goes on
Tuesday 29 September 2009
Britain's men may be facing a future in the wilderness of the Davis Cup's Europe Africa Zone Group Two, but the Lawn Tennis Association will be heartened by the progress of home players in the world rankings. In recent times there have been only four Britons in the game's top 100 lists, but five more joined them yesterday after their results last week.
If the best performance was that of Ken Skupski and Colin Fleming, who won their first ATP title in Metz to climb to No 76 and No 79 respectively in the doubles rankings, the achievements of Elena Baltacha and Katie O'Brien were just as admirable. The British women broke into the world's top 100 singles ranking list for the first time, Baltacha reaching No 93 and O'Brien No 98 after the former beat the latter in the final of the Aegon Pro-Series tournament in Shrewsbury.
Jamie Murray completed the British top 100 club, climbing back to No 97 in the doubles rankings after winning a Challenger tournament in Slovenia. The five latest arrivals join Andy Murray (No 3 in singles), Anne Keothavong (No 77 in singles), Ross Hutchins (No 43 in doubles) and Sarah Borwell (No 76 in doubles) in the game's top flight.
Nevertheless, the ongoing failure of the country's male singles players – with the notable exception of Andy Murray – to make a significant mark on the rankings remains an embarrassment. James Ward, the world No 187, is the only other British man in the top 200.
It is a different picture in doubles. Although Hutchins is having a mediocre run, with only three wins in his last 20 matches, 26-year-old Skupski and 25-year-old Fleming are gaining strength. They have been late developers, Skupski having spent four years at Louisiana State University and Fleming having studied economics and finance at Stirling University. Both graduated in 2007, though Fleming then spent the best part of a year working for Scottish Power before deciding to play tennis full-time.
Since joining forces 11 months ago, the pair have reached 13 finals at Challenger or Futures events, winning eight of them, although their most notable single victory came at the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club in June over the Bryan brothers, the world's top-ranked pair. Sunday's final at the Moselle Open in Metz, where they beat the highly rated Frenchmen Arnaud Clément and Michael Llodra, was their first at an ATP-level event.
Jamie Murray, Wimbledon mixed doubles champion in 2007 and world No 27 in doubles as recently as February, has had a difficult year. Having parted company with the hugely experienced Max Mirnyi, he did not last long with Dusan Vemic, his intended partner for this year, and his ranking quickly fell away.
After little success with a variety of partners, Murray has spent most of the summer playing Challenger events with his fellow Briton, Jamie Delgado. They have won tournaments in Italy and Slovenia, with Murray also joining forces with Jonathan Marray to win a title in the Netherlands.
New world order? Britons in the top 100
*Great Britain has nine players currently ranked in the top 100 of their discipines:
Andy Murray (singles, No 3)
Ross Hutchins (doubles, 43)
Ken Skupski (doubles, 76)
Colin Fleming (doubles, 79)
Jamie Murray (doubles, 97)
Anne Keothavong (singles, 77)
Sarah Borwell (doubles, 79)
Elena Baltacha (singles, 93)
Katie O'Brien (singles, 98)
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