Wilkinson maintains British interest

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The Independent Online

Chris Wilkinson, one of two remaining Britons in the Manchester Challenger, secured his place in the semi-finals with a hard-fought success at Didsbury yesterday over the former Wimbledon junior champion, Diego Nargiso.

Wilkinson, the fourth seed, described his 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 success as one of the best wins of his career. "I may be biased but I don't think you'll see a better match here this week. The standard was unbelievable,'' the 25-year-old from Southampton said. "In fact, I reached a level I don't reach that often. Beating Goran Ivanisevic in round three at Wimbledon was pretty special but this result ranks very highly."

Wilkinson, who today meets his compatriot Mark Petchey or the Dutchman Sander Groen, added: "If I can play like that more often I will be right up there in the top 50."

Wilkinson, through to the quarter-finals of the pounds 32,000 event without dropping a set, trailed 5-3 in the opening set. He recovered to reel off three games in a row only for the Italian to send the set into a tie-break. Wilkinson squandered two set points before taking the shoot-out 8-6.

Nargiso, once ranked No 67 in the world, won the second set tie-break 7-5. However, Wilkinson broke serve in the fourth game and stayed in front to wrap up the match 6-3 in two hours and 10 minutes.

The first semi-final will be an all-German affair between Christian Saceanu and the fifth seed, Arne Thoms. Saceanu, the conqueror of Jeremy Bates in the last 16, put out Spain's Tati Rascon 6-3, 6-2.

Thomas Muster, the French Open champion, will meet Sergi Bruguera, in a battle of the clay-court specialists in today's semi-finals of the Stuttgart Open.

Despite a foot injury and hot conditions, the Austrian Muster cruised to a 6-2, 6-0 quarter-final victory over Spain's Tomas Carbonell in just 53 minutes yesterday to set up the tie with Bruguera, the French Open champion in 1993 and 1994.

The Spanish third seed beat Germany's former Davis Cup player, Carl-Uwe Steeb, 6-3, 6-4.