Childs plays the lead role in teenage revolution

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The Independent Online

Teenagers dominated the national championships at Bolton Arena yesterday, which can be nothing but good news for British tennis. Lee Childs became the first man since Tim Henman in 1997 to retain the men's title, while Hannah Collin clocked up her second victory in the women's event in three years. Both are 19.

Childs, stronger and more confident than 12 months ago, carried too much firepower for the promising junior Alex Bogdanovich, born in Belgrade but now based in Kilburn. Profiting from an irresistible spell in the middle of the match when he captured six out of seven games, Childs ran out a 6-3 6-4 winner in exactly an hour, while Collin, from Surrey, defeated the 29-year-old Welshwoman, Victoria Davies, 6-2 6-1.

Bogdanovich, 17 and a semi-finalist at the junior US Open last month, fully merited the wild card awarded him. He eliminated the top seed, Martin Lee, and dropped only one set on his way to the final. The big serving of Childs was always a problem for him, but he will rue the six break points he fluffed at various stages of the match. In sharp contrast, Childs grabbed both his break points.

Such resilience was, he acknowledged, the product of a punishing year on the satellite circuits. "In the first set I was under a lot of pressure," he said. "But the more under pressure I was, the better I served. My serve got me out of trouble and won the match."

It certainly did. Having opened briskly with a love game which included the first of his six aces, Childs, from Somerset, struggled subsequently on serve and had to save break points in his next three times serving. "I was on the back foot," he said. "But I couldn't let Alex dictate to me. That's what I have learned over the past year – dealing with pressure, shot selection and recognising the big points. The only way for me is to go out there and play big."

Big was an apt description of Childs' game. It pulled him out of trouble and eventually unnerved Bogdanovich, the possessor of a classic backhand which has been compared by Roger Taylor, Britain's Davis Cup captain, to Rod Laver's. It was, strangely, an errant backhand in the sixth game which led to the break of serve which cost him the first set but in the second set he was only once able to threaten the increasingly confident Childs.

Having broken serve in the opening game of that second set, Childs dropped only one point in three service games. At 4-3 he needed to fight off two more break points but once that crisis was overcome the outcome was settled.

"This has made my year because in my book retaining titles is quite big," said Childs, paying handsome tribute to Bogdanovich's skills. "Alex has all the shots," he said. "He moves like a dream, serves well, he is just a little bit raw. When he gets it all together he will be very dangerous."

Bogdanovich has a skinny upper body, but so did John McEnroe and Stefan Edberg. Like them, he has strong legs, the better to propel him around court. Identifying the things he needs to improve as net game, speed and strength, Bogdanovich said, "I am 1,068 in the rankings and now I need to step up and join the other British boys in the 300-400 range. I have good hands and can do well. I should have slowed down the match today but Lee got into a rhythm on serve. He also played well from the back and changed corners very well. He had me on the wrong foot every time."

Both youngsters have been rewarded for their success over the past week with a wild card into the Challenger tournament which starts at the same arena tomorrow. Then it is back to training for Bogdanovich in preparation for his final year as a junior, starting with the Australian circuit in January.

Childs sees signs that British tennis will not return to the wilderness with the eventual passing of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski. "There are a lot of other guys besides Alex and me," he said. "And that will help rivalries. But as long as I am number one, that's all right. I don't mind people saying I could be the next Tim or Greg but I don't want to live in their shadow, people telling me 'Tim did such and such.' But I quite like it. Hopefully, people can see I have potential."

Collin controlled the women's final from the time she broke for a 3-1 lead. Davies held serve only twice and the tactics she had employed so successfully in earning her place in the final, slicing and spinning her opponents to distraction, were disregarded by Collin, who hit hard, flat and accurately. Her only concern was a leg muscle strain, picked up in Friday's semi-finals, which she admitted had bothered her.

"I have played Victoria a few times before and I quite like her style,'' said Collin, the fourth seed. "I also feel I am more consistent and maybe I have more variety than her. She was never going to overpower me. Winning this title again is really good but now I have to get back to international standards.''

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