Wimbledon 97: Court circular: Devon still No 1 for women

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The Independent Online
Cream teas, holiday beaches and a breeding ground for star tennis players. We are talking Devon and in the last instance certainly we are speaking in relative terms. Besides all its other charms the seaside county boasts a remarkable record for producing women players good enough to make a decent living out of the game.

In the case of Sue Barker it proved a pretty decent living indeed. The 1976 French champion and Wimbledon semi-finalist the following year, Sue hailed from Paignton. Before her on the honours board came Angela Mortimer, out of Torquay and a Wimbledon winner in 1961.

For a long time Corinne Mulsworth, another Torquay girl, held the distinction of the last British woman to qualify for The Championships and win a round there. That was in 1976 and on Tuesday the achievement was at last matched by Karen Cross, 23, and, somewhat inevitably, from Exeter.

Also from Exeter comes Lucie Ahl, born just five months later and in a neighbouring village to Karen. She is still waiting to complete her first-round match here.

The list goes on. There was also Sara Gomer, Jo Louis, Valda Lake and before them Jackie Fayter; all Wimbledon players and all West Country Wonders.

"Obviously the home counties have produced their fair share of players but, of the others, Devon is streets ahead as a producer of talent," the Lawn Tennis Association's press officer, Nick Imison, said.

"There is no obvious explanation, it just seems to be one of those coincidental things. But Devon has had some influential coaches like Arthur Roberts who was a mentor for both Angela Mortimer and Sue Barker."