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SURREY COMET - 23/01/2004


New Malden tennis player Melanie South won her first British Tour title last week at Sutton Junior Tennis Centre. South, 17, had been unseeded for the event, but beat the higher ranked Natalie Neri and Karen Paterson to qualify for the final. There she faced eighth seed and world number 749 Anna Hawkins and played some superb tennis to win 6-2 6-2.

"I was absolutely delighted to win my first title and it was even more special to beat so many higher ranked players along the way," said South. "It does wonders for my confidence to win these matches and I was especially happy to win a tournament so near my home. Beating Karen Paterson was probably my best performance. she was seeded third in the tournament, so it was a very big victory."
South - who is a student at Nonsuch High School for Girls and is ranked 858 in the world - continued her excellent form this week by qualifying for the women's $10,000 event in Hull. She easily beat Rebecca Fong and then pulled off a fantastic win over her doubles partner Katie O'Brien to reach the first round proper.

South then took on and beat Holly Bagshaw, ranked 690 in the world, in straights sets and will now face either Natalie Neri of seventh seed Rafaella Bindi.

"It was another excellent win for me and I was delighted not to lose a set," said South. "Holly is a difficult opponent, but I am playing very well at the moment and am happy with my game."

South is also taking part in the doubles competition and is paired with German Celine Beerman. They have been drawn against the tournament's top seeds Claire Curran and Surina De Beer.

South is poised to shoot up the rankings this season and gives credit for much of this success to her new coach, former tennis professional Lucie Ahl.

"Lucie has been coaching me since July and is a superb help," said South. "She is passing on to me the benefits of her career and I don't think I would be doing so well if it wasn't for her knowledge and experience. My aim this year is to improve my ranking as much as I can and just keep enjoying my tennis."

After the event in Hull, South will play in Tipton before flying to tournaments in Spain and Croatia.
"I am really looking forward to the tours," she said. "It is good to get out of England and expereince different conditions."

by Mike Simmonds

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