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The Guardian - 29/06/2006

South sends the rankings west

Success in this sport is usually dependent on the grasping of opportunities. Yesterday the Britons Melanie South and Sarah Borwell took the wildcards offered to them by the All England Club and, against expectations, barged their way into the second round.
South's 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 upset win over the 14th seed Francesca Schiavone was the more eye-catching but Borwell's 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 victory over Marta Domachowska was just as hard fought, as emotional and as worthy of the praise which is usually in such short supply for Britain's female tennis players at this time of year.

"We get quite a lot of knocks," said South, 20, who lives in New Malden and usually plays her tennis at a local club in Wimbledon rather than at the All England Club. "We're all wildcards. None of us has got a ranking high enough to get in, so ultimately we're not expected to win any matches, so it is a bit of a blow when we get kind of almost abuse in the newspaper and stuff.
"But it's great to go against that, to go out there and beat someone so high. It's really a good feeling. I can't believe it. I'm obviously so happy to have won. It's my best win ever and now I'm really looking forward to the second round.

"This was my first time here and I was up against someone who is 14 in the world so of course I was nervous. But at the same time I had nothing to lose. No one was ever expecting me to win. I just went out there and enjoyed it."

Borwell said much the same thing, though her win carried an extra financial impact. Unlike South she is not funded by the Lawn Tennis Association and was therefore more in need of the £8,520 she will receive even if, as is likely, she loses to Ana Ivanovic today.

The Middlesbrough-born Borwell should also break into the world's top 200 and become British No2 thanks to her win over Domachowska. It may not sound like much when compared with the achievements of Sharapova, Williams and the rest but in the context of the level both women usually play at - namely small tournaments in the world's less exalted locations - yesterday' s victories were huge achievements.

There were 291 ranking positions separating South and Schiavone, making it the biggest win by a British woman since 1998, when Sam Smith beat Conchita Martínez, and 183 places stood between Borwell and Domachowska.

Both Britons performed well above themselves. Though the LTA can claim no credit whatsoever for the 26-year-old Borwell, it does fund South, who is coached by the former player Lucie Ahl. Both players are due to meet the LTA chief executive Roger Draper this week for a summit meeting to have a "no-holds-barred" discussion on the future of British women's tennis. Presumably someone will ask him why the country's No1 woman player Anne Keothavong felt compelled to introduce herself to him at Edgbaston recently after he reportedly failed to contact her when he took over in April.

While Borwell was looking forward to facing Ivanovic, South has what appears an easier draw against the American Shenay Perry, world-ranked 62. Having taken her chance here, South has now carved out an even bigger opportunity for herself. Yesterday should have given her the self-belief to take it.



by Eleanor Preston at Wimbledon



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