Melanie South © Photo: James Jordan
Lives in: New Malden
Club: The Wimbledon Club
Trains at: The Queen’s Club, London
Coach: Lucie Ahl
Former coaches: Paul Dent, Kate Warne-Holland, Lesley Charles
Height: 5' 9"
Eye colour: Green
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Favourite surface: Grass
Age turned pro: 18
Age started playing: Six
Introduction to tennis: Mum was a short tennis coach, dad is now a coach and older brother used to play.
Ambition in the game: To become WTA top 100 and build on that to go higher
Professional singles titles: 2006: China $25k, Hull $10K; 2005: Bath $10K; 2004: Mumbai $10K
Junior titles: ITF junior title in Sweden
Education: Seven GCSEs and 3 A levels
Personal: Enjoys shopping, chilling out with friends, going to the cinema and swimming.
Family: Mother is called Sheila, father is called John who used to play professional football for Brentford 1966-67 and Fulham 1964-66. He then went into the police force when he got injured then retired to help take Mel from school to tennis back to school. He now coaches part time and works at the local tennis club in the bar and gym and has taken a massage course. Two brothers: Andrew and Stephen. Mel listens to either Christina Aguilera or brother Stephen’s band, The Kicking Pills, before matches.
When asked to state her ambition in the sport, this determined 20-year-old from Surrey insisted: “To appear in the first round proper of Wimbledon.” After seeing her world ranking improve more than 100 places during the first few months of 2006 and establishing a career high of 333 in late May, South achieved that goal and sensationally beat world No.14 Francesca Schiavone of Italy in round one. She followed that up by reaching the last four of the $25,000 event in Felixstowe before winning her first $25,000 title in China, a result that helped her break into the top 200 in the world and become the new British No.2.
Tendon problems in her left knee that enforced a five-month lay-off a couple of years ago are now forgotten and she has made good headway under the coaching of Lucie Ahl at the LTA's Queen's Club headquarters. However, it was clear she needed to hit the road to improve her ranking and the miles have been racking up so far this year.
Late last year she got to the semi-finals in Nottingham and Wrexham and after winning the $10,000 title in Hull at the beginning of 2006, she set off on her travels and began with a victory over recently dethroned British No.1 Elena Baltacha in Jersey. Island life clearly suited her because she got to the semi-finals in Tenerife after winning through qualifying.
Melanie's ranking rise on the doubles court has been even more spectacular, moving from 467th position on December 31 to 297 at the end of May, and her partnership with Katie O'Brien has been extremely productive. The pair have reached a succession of quarter-finals in such varied settings as Sunderland, Las Palmas (Canary Islands) Fuertenentura, Athens and Palma (Majorca). She is developing into an impressive all-court player but insists grass is her favourite surface.