Flanagan announces arrival with victory over Philippoussis

Click to follow
The Independent Online

As the rows of Boeings stack up over south-west London, preparing to make their final descent into London Heathrow, the faithful are being kept in a holding pattern. With baited breath they await Tim Henman's return to earth after his semi-final exploits at the French Open - he is due to touch down this afternoon against Karol Beck - and assume the mantle of be-all and end-all of British tennis. Or he was until lunchtime yesterday.

As the rows of Boeings stack up over south-west London, preparing to make their final descent into London Heathrow, the faithful are being kept in a holding pattern. With baited breath they await Tim Henman's return to earth after his semi-final exploits at the French Open - he is due to touch down this afternoon against Karol Beck - and assume the mantle of be-all and end-all of British tennis. Or he was until lunchtime yesterday.

A young upstart has stolen his place in the limelight. Ian Flanagan announced his arrival on the main tour by beating Mark Philippoussis 7-6, 7-6. And if you are wondering who Ian Flanagan is, you are not alone.

Very few players have been greeted at their first major press conference by the question: "Who are you?" but Flanagan took it in his stride. "I've no idea myself," he said with a giggle.

For the record, he is 22 and comes from North Wales. A promising junior, his progress was halted for three years by a bout of glandular fever which did little for his ranking but did, at least, protect his bank balance. "It's difficult to spend money when you're in bed," he said. Only feeling well again 18 months ago, he started the long and patient crawl up the rankings and came into Queen's as the world's 866th-ranked player.

"Fifty per cent of me thought I could do it and 50 per cent of me didn't," Flanagan said. "I knew I had a shot but it is Mark Philippoussis and you've got to give him some respect."

Flanagan did anything but. Using the sneaky tactic of getting the Philippoussis serve back, he made him try and come forward and he made him think - and multi-tasking is not one of Philippoussis's strengths. At the same time, Flanagan kept leathering his forehand and just about keeping a hold of his nerve.

Still, while Flanagan may not be used to success, his friends certainly are. A pal of Ronnie O'Sullivan and Andy Roddick, he reckons "it's good to be around those guys".

Not that he was looking for Roddick's supportive face in the crowd as the match came to its climax. "I was just trying not to be sick, to be honest," he said.

So now he has Victor Hanescu, of Romania, to look forward to in the second round today. Win or lose, he has already doubled his career income and is guaranteed a cheque of at least £4,418.

Hanescu put an end to Goran Ivanisevic's comeback hopes, beating the former Wimbledon champion 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, but at least Ivanisevic had fun. Joking with the crowd, acting the clown and popping in a few aces, he was just looking forward to Wimbledon and his last hurrah.

Andre Agassi may have less to look forward to after losing 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 to Igor Andreev. He has now lost three first-round matches in succession and has not won since March. He has not had such a depressing run since 1997 when his world ranking slid to 141.

Coming back in 1999 to win the French and US Opens, he promised that should he ever fall off the face of the earth again, he would never be back. Given that he left without saying goodbye yesterday, the omens do not look good.

Comments