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BBC SPORT - 17/12/2004


Britain's women can start turning around years of underachievement in 2005, says LTA chief David Felgate.

In a year that has seen few obvious signs of hope on the women's side, juniors like Andrew Murray and Miles Kasiri have boosted the men's game.

And asked whether 2005 could see a similar story for Britain's women, Felgate told BBC Sport: "Definitely.

"They are aged 17 to 18 and I'll give you their names: Hannah Grady, Claire Peterzan, Katie O'Brien and Melanie South."

The four young Britons have been part of the Lawn Tennis Association's annual elite performance winter camp in La Manga, which ends on Friday.

And while Felgate does not expect his players to be threatening the Russian women's domination in the immediate future, he believes stagnation is about to turn into visible improvement.

"I think the women are a couple of years behind the men," said Felgate, speaking from La Manga. "I think it's going to change in the near future.

"There are four or five girls here who... well, we might not be having this conversation this time next year because a few of them may have broken into the top 300."

Since taking over as the LTA's performance director in March 2003, Felgate has always made it clear his initial aim is to improve standards across the board.

Katie O'Brien, 18, ranked 384
Melanie South, 18, ranked 463
Claire Peterzan, 17, ranked 538
Hannah Grady, 17, ranked 598

"It's bit by bit," said Felgate.

"It didn't happen overnight with the men but the rankings are moving up.

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by Piers Newbery

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