Wimbledon '94: Foster in ferocious fightback: Home satisfaction as four British players reach the second round while a popular three-times winner finds his touch

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The Independent Online
NO ONE in their right mind would break out with a refrain of 'Rule Britannia' anywhere near a tennis court but there was an undoubted glow of home satisfaction about the first round of hostilities at Wimbledon yesterday.

Three British men won for a start, which may only put us on course to equal last year's tally of five in the second round, but as that achievement marked a high point in the recent fortunes of domestic tennis it is no mean achievement. To add to that Shirli-Ann Siddall, the national women's No 13, also won.

Pride of place yesterday went to Andrew Foster who came into the tournament with the less than happy record of no wins on the ATP Tour proper this year and left the All England Club with a

3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory over a man ranked 112 places above him, France's Guillaume Raoux.

Foster's success came on Court 14, scene of his match against Pete Sampras last year which ended with the world No 1 bad-mouthing an aggressively jingoistic crowd. Then the 21-year-old from Stoke-on- Trent was the youngest home player to reach the last 16 since tennis went open in 1968; yesterday he was a man on the slide at 215 in the world.

The incline looked to be becoming steeper when he lost the first set to an opponent whose appearance suggests that if he went into a telephone box for a dynamic transformation the improved version would be a wimpish Clark Kent. Raoux, bespectacled, overweight and with his left leg heavily bandaged, broke in the fourth game to take the first set and it was only when Foster's ferocious serve began to inflict damage the match turned.

Foster attributed the victory, in part, to the influence of his coach, John Paish, who has coached him since he was 12 but who has only just resumed after an interruption due - in the words of Richard Lewis, the LTA director of national training - to a 'break in communications'.

A break in funding might have been a more appropriate description but Foster was no more forthcoming either. 'It's in the past,' Foster said, before going to praise Paish. 'He knows by now what I'm doing right and wrong. He has helped me tactically and adjusted my forehand even in the short time we've been back together.'

Chris Wilkinson, who disturbed the aplomb of Stefan Edberg in the third round last year, defeated Omar Camporese 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 while Jeremy Bates, the British No 1, beat another Italian Gianluca Pozzi 7-5, 6-4, 6-1 as a prelude to attending a reception with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. 'There will be a 1,001 people there,' he said, 'so I don't know if I'll actually meet her.'

Siddall's match was a nervy affair with Christina Singer that was concluded 6-4, 5-7,

7-5 when the German double- faulted on match point. 'She had such a big serve that I was just trying to get the ball back' she said. 'Fortunately it was her who made the mistake.'

The most gallant British loser was Nick Gould who came from two sets down against the world No 26, Peru's Jaime Yzaga, and rallied again at 5-1 in the deciding set before going down 6-3, 7-6,

6-7, 4-6 7-5. The quickest was Monique Javer, the national women's No 2.

Javer was the quickest in fact as she was looking back with regret on the 1994 tournament before the stawberries and cream had got a chance to get warm. The score was 6-1, 6-2 to Romania's Irina Spirlea and the clock on the ivy clad wall of the Centre Court read 1.03. By a minute she got to the losing tape first, beating Sweden's Asa Carlsson (defeated 6-2 6-1 by Nathalie Tauziat) by a short head. Or perhaps that should be a shortcoming.

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