Flanagan's second win may not earn Wimbledon place

Although he is a joker in the Lawn Tennis Association's pack, there is no guarantee that Ian Flanagan will be given a wild card for Wimbledon.

Although he is a joker in the Lawn Tennis Association's pack, there is no guarantee that Ian Flanagan will be given a wild card for Wimbledon.

The 22-year-old Welsh qualifier, ranked No 886 in the world, followed up his first-round win against Mark Philippoussis, of Australia, last year's Wimbledon runner-up, at the Stella Artois Championships here, by defeating Victor Hanescu, of Romania, 7-6, 6-3, yesterday.

In order to rest "one or two aches and pains" before he plays Sebastien Grosjean - the Frenchman who eliminated Tim Henman both here and at Wimbledon a year ago - Flanagan withdrew from the LTA's Wimbledon wild-card play-offs at Raynes Park. He was due to play Oliver Freelove there yesterday.

"I want to give myself a good shot tomorrow, and I've decided to take the risk of not getting a wild card for Wimbledon," Flanagan said. "If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."

Flanagan was out of tennis for two years after suffering from glandular fever at the age of 15. On his return, he struggled to make an impression, and his results and application to the sport were not considered good enough to merit LTA funding. He is currently sponsored by two London building contractors.

"When I was a lot younger, I found it difficult to be dedicated to the grind of competing in the small events," Flanagan said. "But that has changed. I now work much harder. I have a boxing trainer helping with my work-outs."

In agreement with the All England Club, the LTA introduced the wild-card duel in an attempt to raise the competitive level of British players. One of Wimbledon's four remaining wild cards goes to the winner. The All England Club then distribute the other three at their own discretion.

Last year, Alex Bogdanovic received a wild card even though he was unsuccessful in the play-off. At the time, Bogdanovic was the British No 5. Flanagan is the nation's No 26.

David Felgate, the LTA's director of performance, defended the governing body's policy on the wild-card play-off. "If a player is ranked below 300, he does not get a wild card unless he is successful in the play-offs," Felgate emphasised. "Last year, Bogdanovic lost in the play-offs and got a wild card. Some people didn't like that. They said we were not tough enough. So do you want us to be tough, or not?

"Ian has got ability. I'm delighted to see him come into the sport. I hope he continues to show the promise he's shown here, because tennis is a 12 months a year sport. It's not just about a couple of good matches."

Felgate added: "If Ian wants to try and qualify for Wimbledon at Roehampton next week, I'll make sure he gets a wild card. But the wild cards for Wimbledon belong to Wimbledon. We only put in recommendations."

* British interest in the DFS Classic in Edgbaston ended yesterday when Anne Keothavong was defeated 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 by the 16th seed, Maria Sanchez Lorenzo of Spain. The American qualifier Shenay Perry caused the first major upset when she overcame the former champion, Jelena Dokic, 6-4, 7-6.

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