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SURREY COMET - 18/05/2009

South gunning for French Open success

A beefed-up Mel South hopes her punishing fitness schedule will pay dividends when she makes her bow in the French Open this week.

The New Malden star has maintained a low profile of late, electing to hit the gym, which has seen her world ranking slip from 99 to 124 in the past two months.

But South reckons it is simply all part of the plan.

She said: “I took the decision to take some time out as I felt I really needed to get into better shape.

“I want to go a lot further than just making the top 100, and for that my body needs to improve.

“I have taken the last seven weeks just to work on my fitness - doing a lot of track running and gym work, and I feel really good.

“Now I’m really geared up for the rest of this season and I can’t wait to get started.”

South’s French Open action will see her in the main draw thanks to her ranking.

And she admits qualifying on merit has given her a big boost.

South added: “To know I am in the draw because of my ranking is great and I will take a lot of confidence from that.

“To be honest, the only reason my ranking has dipped recently is because I haven’t been competing, but it is nothing to panic about.

“Now we are into the part of the season I love the most, with the grass courts coming up after the French Open, and that is where I am at my strongest.”

With Anne Keothavong still flying the flag for British women’s tennis, South makes no bones about her desire to improve on her status as the nation’s number three.

And the 23-year-old feels breaking back into the top 100 will be just the start.

She added: “The first thing is to break back in the top 100.

“But top 50 is my goal now.

“After the French Open and Wimbledon, I will be off to the States and then Asia to boost my ranking.

“It is a grind, but if you want to make it you have to put in the hours, and I certainly do.”

by By Simon Fitzjohn

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