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SURREY COMET - 13/06/2007


New Malden's Melanie South has declared herself fit and ready for Wimbledon after a dramatic return to form at the Surbiton Trophy tournament last week.

The 21 year old, who has been reunited with influential coach Lucie Ahl in recent weeks, beat top seed Alberta Brianti 6-2 6-4 in the first round before breezing past 17 year old Australian Alison Bai 6-1 6-4.

It completes a return to form - coupled with last month's run to the quarter finals of the Fukuoka tournament in Japan - after a torrid start to 2007 that brought just one win in 11 matches.

And South, who went out in the quarter finals 5-7 5-7 to American Raquel Kops-Jones, believes she is in better shape than when she pulled off her shock first round win over then world number 14 Francesca Schiavone at SW19 last year.

"I am 100 per cent fitter and stronger than I was last year," she said. "Coming back on to grass is a real psychological boost. It gives me the confidence to hit the ball as hard as I can. There are a lot of positives in my game at the moment. The past six months have been a low point. I definately don't want to go back there. I know what I'm doing now is the right way forward and I am beginning to stand on my own two feet as a player."

South, who has moved out of home to live in Streatham, has been training at Bisham Abbey under the watchful eye of Ahl for the past two months. The move has coincided with her best run of form since lifting her first $25,000 Challenger title in China soon after her start turn at Wimbledon, which rocketed South to 166 in the world rankings.

The former Nonsuch School student put the disappointment of her singles exit behind her to claim the women's doubles title alongside Karen Paterson, beating compatriots Elena Baltacha and Naomi Cavaday 6-1 6-4. She is confident she is back on track, with tournaments in Birmingham and Eastbourne on the horizon.

"It has been tough being out on my own," she added. "But I realised I had to do something about my situation. I had to lose weight and get fitter, which is something I have done off my own back. It is beginning to pay dividends but there is more to come. Being back on home soil for this next stretch makes life a lot easier."

by Stuart Amos

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