Childs confirms potential

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The Independent Online

Roger Taylor and Patrice Hagelauer, Britain's latest talent scouts on the "Bridge of Sighs", an elevated walkway between the courts at the International Centre here, so called by a tennis writer who despaired of hope springing forth at the National Championships, had an encouraging day yesterday.

Roger Taylor and Patrice Hagelauer, Britain's latest talent scouts on the "Bridge of Sighs", an elevated walkway between the courts at the International Centre here, so called by a tennis writer who despaired of hope springing forth at the National Championships, had an encouraging day yesterday.

A couple of teenagers, Lee Childs and Mark Hilton, contested a lively men's singles final, with the taller, more powerful Childs edging the title, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, and both showing qualities that may prove useful to Taylor's Davis Cup campaign in the Euro/African Zone next year.

Hagelauer, who, as the Lawn Tennis Association's performance director, is responsible for the development of women players as well as men, may not have seen much to surprise him while watching Lorna Woodroffe, 24, overcome her 25-year-old doubles partner, Julie Pullin, 7-5, 7-6, to win the women's singles title, although Woodroffe promised to help assist two youngsters from the Alan Jones/Jo Durie coaching stable, Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong.

Childs, 18, a six-footer from Yeovil, Somerset, is a confident, no-nonsense type who completed his junior career by winning the European under-18 championship and the United States Open junior doubles title, partnering James Nelson, of Newcastle. Yesterday's victory against the 19-year-old Hilton, a left-hander from Cheshire, made Childs the youngest men's champion since the Nationals were first played in 1983.

Hilton, 5ft 7in, not only retrieved brilliantly, particularly during the opening set, but was often first to attack the net, catching Childs off guard. Hilton broke for 3-2 in the first set after Childs had fought back from 0-40 to deuce, only to net a backhand volley whileintercepting a Hilton drive.

In the concluding game of the set, Hilton impressed the spectators at courtside by winning a point with a shot from behind his back, and secured the set with an ace.

Childs, having broken for 3-1 in the second set, was perhaps at his best when called upon to save three break points in the next game, which he won with three consecutive aces.

The match was decided on one break point with Hilton serving at 3-3, 30-40 in the final set. Childs converted with an emphatic forehand pass, and did not give Hilton the sniff of a point in his last two service games, finishing with a serve and a forehand drive.

Childs, coached by Danny Sapsford, a former national champion, hopes to be considered for a wild card for next week's ATP Tour Samsung Open at Brighton.

Woodroffe's success is a reward for battling through several seasons of injury setbacks. The Surrey player, who defeated the top seed, Louise Latimer, in the semi-finals, was determined that her friendship with Pullin (they won the doubles title for the fourth time on Saturday) would not dull her competitive instinct.

Pullin, a twice former singles champion, had three opportunities to break in the second game, but was met with sturdy serving. Woodroffe broke for 6-5 and then held to love.

Woodroffe saved two break points in the second game of the second set and broke for 3-2 with a top-spin forehand lob. But she was unable to serve out the match at 5-4, Pullin luring her into netting a backhand approach at 15-40.

Nerves affected Woodroffe again when she led 6-3 in the tie-break. She failed to capitalise on two serves, but then passed Pullin with a superb cross-court backhand when the Sussex left-hander served at 5-6.

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