Lewis falls at final hurdle

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The Independent Online

Chris Lewis ended as a downcast loser in the final round of the Wimbledon qualifying tournament here but when he started to add up the positive factors of his participation it did not seem such a bad experience after all.

On a blustery court the Briton was outplayed in straight sets by the 6ft 8in Belgian Dick Norman, but his earnings for three matches totalled £6,500, he lifted his world ranking by some 50 places to around the 500 mark, and he was able to ease some concerns about his abilities on grass.

Norman, who won 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 in two hours and 17 minutes, said: "A big weak point was his backhand and with my lefty serve it is difficult to get back. There was nothing really tough against my serve either. But he has a great forehand, he hardly made a mistake on it and hit 20-25 winners."

Lewis, a 21-year-old from Neath, never broke Norman's serve but when the match came to a climax in the third set tie-break he missed four set points, one of them after slipping during a rally, and saved two match points before Norman finished him off with a big forehand to make the main draw at Wimbledon for the second time. In 1995 Norman beat Stefan Edberg in the second round and lost to Boris Becker in the fourth.

The 32-year-old was pleased he had fulfilled his task but had a strong complaint to the Wimbledon authorities about practice facilities for players in the qualifying event. "They make a lot of money," he said. "They could invest in a couple of decent courts. You come here and after three days of bad bounces you get crazy in your head."

*Albert Costa has withdrawn from Wimbledon due to a knee injury. The Russian Nikolay Davydenko takes his place.

WIMBLEDON FIRST-ROUND TIES FOR QUALIFIERS (qualifiers' names first): Men: I Karlovic (Croa) v L Hewitt (Aus); W Moodie (SA) v M Rosset(Swit); P Luxa (Cz Rep) v J Bjorkman (Swe); F Verdasco (Sp) v J Nieminen (Fin); C Saulnier (Fr) v X Malisse (Bel); F Niemeyer (Can) v F Mantilla (Sp); M Llodra (Fr) v D Sanchez (Sp); R Soderling (Swe) v M Verkerk (Neth); T Larkham (Aus) v J Blake (US); I Heuberger (Swit) v P Baccanello (Aus); T Suzuki (Japan) v D Norman (Bel); G Elseneer (Bel) v N Kiefer (Ger); M Mertinak (Slovak) v M Safin (Rus); K Economidis (Gr) v N Escude (Fr); R Kendrick (US; lucky loser) v F Lopez (Sp); V Hanescu (Rom; lucky loser) v A Portas(Sp).

Women: M Sucha (Slovak) v G Leon Garcia (Sp); S Hrozenska (Slovak) v V Williams (US); C Gullickson (US) v I Tulyaganova (Uzb); J Lee (Tai) v S Asagoe (Japan); M Sequera (Ven) v C Martinez (Sp); B Bielik (US) v A Mauresmo (Fr); A Kapros (Hun) v M Shaugnessy (US); S Sfar (Tun) v P Suarez (Arg); L Osterloh (US) v M E Camerin (It); E Fislova (Slovak) v L Cervanova (Slovak); M Drake (Can) v N Pratt (Aus); B Strycova (Cz Rep) v T Perebiynis (Ukr); A Parra (Sp; lucky loser) v Z Ondraskova (Cz Rep).