Keothavong produces ‘one of best wins’ to see off Szavay

Life gets better and better for Anne Keothavong. Having matched her best performance on the main women’s tour by reaching last week’s semi-finals of the Auckland Classic, the British No 1 yesterday recorded what she described as “one of my best wins to date” by beating Agnes Szavay 6-3, 7-5 in the first round of the Hobart International.

Szavay, who reached the US Open quarter-finals in 2007 and the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, is ranked No 25 in the world and was the No 5 seed. Keothavong dominated for most of the match and rallied again to clinch victory after Szavay had fought back from 4-1 down in the second set to level at 5-5.

“Annie is looking more and more comfortable at this level,” said Nigel Sears, the Lawn Tennis Association’s head women’s coach. “She played magnificently today.”

The 25-year-old, who was due to play Virginie Razzano in the second round today, climbed to a career-high No 53 in yesterday’s updated world rankings list. It is the highest placing by a British woman since Jo Durie stood at No 52 in April 1993.

Keothavong will be joined at next week’s Australian Open by the British No 2, Mel South. It is the first time two British women have gained direct entry into the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament since Durie and Clare Wood at the US Open in 1993.

Having been given her place at Melbourne after Maria Sharapova’s withdrawal with a shoulder injury, South again took advantage of a leading player’s misfortunes at the Sydney International yesterday. Marion Bartoli retired with a calf injury just two games into her first-round match with South. Today South was due to play Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, the world No 12.

South is at No 110 in the world rankings, her highest placing yet. She has never played in the main draw at a Grand Slam tournament outside Wimbledon, but made steady progress through the rankings last year. In the last three months of 2008 she reached four finals, including three in succession in Australia, winning the event in Port Pirie.

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