Hannah's level head leads to new heights

Ronald Atkin discovers why it has been a good year for Collin
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The Independent Online

Now is the time when those dedicated people, the assiduous keepers of diaries, will be starting to evaluate their year. As a member of that clan Hannah Collin is already entitled to place a tick alongisde "very good year". And, if she retains the women's title at the British National Championships in Telford this week, Hannah will be informing her diary that 2000 has been outstanding.

Now is the time when those dedicated people, the assiduous keepers of diaries, will be starting to evaluate their year. As a member of that clan Hannah Collin is already entitled to place a tick alongisde "very good year". And, if she retains the women's title at the British National Championships in Telford this week, Hannah will be informing her diary that 2000 has been outstanding.

Collin was the sensation of Telford 12 months back. At 17 she won the women's singles and doubles titles without dropping a set, a fine junior who had blossomed into a player of much senior promise. This year the transformation has been completed as the teenager from Thames Ditton bade farewell to the junior world with a semi-final showing at the Australian Open and a third-round exit at Wimbledon, then announced her arrival on the senior scene with back-to-back titles on the $10,000 challenger circuit in Spain and Sunderland.

Hannah's diary tells a tale of steady achievement. Three years ago her world ranking stood at 725. In 1998 it had climbed to 539 and by the end of last year she was 354th. Now, after sailing through three qualifying rounds to get into a WTA event in Bratislava two weeks ago, she is up to 285. The next target is to crack 250, which would entitle her to try for a place, through qualifying, in the main draw at the Australian Open in January. This, of course, is nowhere near the explosive momentum generated by such as Hingis and the Williams sisters but Hannah is happy. "It was important to get a lot of matches under my belt this year. It is a matter of taking it slowly, as long as my ranking is moving in the right direction, but I don't want it to go too slowly."

Memorable firsts for her in 2000 were selection as No 2 singles player on her debut in Britain's Fed Cup team and a victory over the former British No 1, Sam Smith, at Sunderland en route to the title.

Collin's LTA-appointed coach, Rob Antoun, praises her continuous improvement. "It is easy to get wrapped up in where Hannah's ranking is but she is just starting her apprenticeship on the senior tour. To be well inside 300 is good progress when you think she could still be playing junior tournaments. She is a very consistent type of person and the way she progresses, stage by stage, is how I think she is going to get there."

At a slim 5ft 5in Hannah needs to build physically and she works out, sometimes twice daily, with Tim Newenham, former fitness trainer to Tim Henman. "She is making good progress here, too," said Antoun, "and she has also made technical improvements on the serve and smash. But it is her mental attitude which is one of her greatest strengths. As you go higher your mental strength becomes more important because there is less of a difference in physique or technique. Hannah is very calm on court and plays her best tennis when it gets very close, which is a huge strength. She doesn't let things like a bad line call get to her in a negative way, though I think she could be a bit more positive and gee herself up a bit more. But she is level-headed, which will stand her in good stead."

Reaching out for something wooden to touch, Hannah confirmed her first senior year has been injury-free - "a few niggles, but nothing to set me back". This she attributes to her physical training programme. "My strength has definitely improved and that has helped my tennis, helped me to be aggressive. That's now so important in the women's game. Recently I have been playing really well but there is room for more improvement."

Hannah, seeded eighth for Telford in line with her British ranking, is eager to embark on the defence of the British title. "Winning there last year was definitely the best result of my career, I will remember that for ever. Winning it hasn't changed the way I feel about the tournament and I am hoping to win it again, though my main rivals are higher-ranked than me. But it doesn't matter if I am No 20 or No 1 in the UK, it doesn't affect how I feel. Telford is going to be just as tough as it was last year, since Julie [Pullin] and Louise [Latimer] have been winning matches on the WTA tour and are at a level above me. But I have nothing to prove."

That is shown by the fact that she will shortly make her second straight appearance as a member of the British team at the European championships. So there could be another bright entry or two in the Hannah Collin diary before the end of the year.

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