Dent takes to grass for first Challenger title

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The Independent Online

Taylor Dent dodged the rain showers to win his first Challenger title at the Powder Byrne Trophy yesterday. The unseeded American lost the first set 6-4 to the higher ranked South African, Neville Godwin, before play was stopped at the start of the second. When the match resumed 40 minutes later, the 20-year-old missed two set points at 5-4 before eventually winning the tie-break 7-3 and wrapping up the match with a 6-2 deciding set.

"Grass suits my game very nicely," Dent said. "I like to take big rips at the game and hopefully I can keep up that serving for Queen's and Wimbledon." Dent, whose busy weekend schedule included playing the first qualifying round of the Stella Artois following Saturday's semi-final at Surbiton, shot off to Queen's for his second match.

There was no hurry, though, for Godwin after yesterday's defeat. On Saturday he was defaulted from the Stella qualifying event when his Surbiton semi-final ran into three sets and he was unable to make the start of his match.

Dent had booked his place in the final with a surprise victory over Byron Black of Zimbabwe on Saturday. Dent, ranked No 166 in the world, needed less than an hour to complete a straight-sets victory over the No 2 seed. Black, a vastly experienced campaigner who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year, had already seen off three British players in Luke Milligan, Jamie Delgado and Arvind Parmar during the week. But for once the world No 62 had no answer to the power of Dent, who completed a 6-3, 6-3 victory.

In the women's singles final, on Saturday, Japan's Rika Fujiwara took the first set 6-3 against the American top seed, Kristina Brandi, and trailed 2-1 in the second before rain stopped play.

When play resumed after the delay Brandi extended her lead to 3-1 in the second set and appeared set to stage a fightback. But Fujiwara had other ideas and remarkably won the next five games to seal a 6-3, 6-3 victory over the world No 41, the first title of her career.

"It's fantastic," said the 19-year-old world No 190, who had played only four times on grass before this week. "It all depended on beating Shinobu Asagoe [the second seed] in the first round. I'd lost to her lots of times before but the win gave me the confidence for the rest of the week."

* A few days after his 45th birthday, Bjorn Borg was honoured on Saturday by his home town of Stockholm, which named a street after him. Bjorn Borg Promenade passes by his childhood home and the park in Soedertaelje where he began playing tennis.

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