MELANIE SOUTH last night joined the list of Britons forced to rue missed opportunities as she let slip a set point when serving at 5-4 in the first set of her second-round match against Shenay Perry; her American opponent produced a forehand winner down the line.
“I’ve replayed that point over in my mind about 500 times now,” South, 20, the British No 6, said. “I maybe should have gone for it a little bit more. I slightly held back.”
South recovered to take a 3-1 lead in the ensuing tie-break but the nerves, which she had suppressed so successfully in beating Francesca Schiavone, the No 11 seed, on Wednesday, finally took their toll.
“I was more nervous going out there today than yesterday, which I was surprised with,” she said.
Like Katie O’Brien and Naomi Cavaday before her, South had worked herself to within touching distance of victory only to let it slide through her fingers. Her head dropped and Perry needed no invitation to pounce. She puffed up her cheeks, pushed back her shoulders and steamrollered through the second set to polish off a 7-6, 6-2 victory.
To give South her dues, she did not give up without a fight. She saved two match points — one with a backhand pass down the line, the other on an overrule by the umpire — before slicing a forehand into the net to confirm her exit. “I’m gutted,” she said, “but it’s still been a great tournament for me. I feel like I’ve got chances in these matches so it proves to me that I can play with these players and I’m going to take that into the future.”
South grew up in New Malden, Surrey, and went to Nonsuch High School, in Cheam, before turning professional at the age of 18. She trains at Queen’s Club, West London, where she is coached by Lucie Ahl, the former British player.
South puts her breakthrough down to her partnership with Ahl. “If I had had the information from Lucie when I was younger, I think this would have happened a lot sooner.”
Ahl is determined that South’s success this week does not go to her head. “I’ve got the hammer and nails out to make sure her feet stay on the ground,” she said last night. “She has to work hard 24/7, she has to be willing to train her socks off.”
South won’t have long to contemplate what might have been. She will play in a £25,000 event in Felixstowe, Suffolk, as soon as Wimbledon finishes. “It’s going to be one man and his dog watching,” she said.