Tennis:Keothavong returns in style

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To her credit, Vrljic never gave up and even broke Keothavong’s serve in the second set, but her opponent never looked troubled and, after racing to a 4-1 lead within 20 minutes of the start of the match, was always in control.

‘I felt that, with every match I’ve played this week I’ve been getting better,’ said Keothavong afterwards.

‘But at this level, every game is tough.

I’m just glad to be here, too, for I was out for eight months in 2005 with a cruciate ligament injury.

Otherwise I would have been here last year.’ Both women preferred to play their tennis from the back of the court, the only sound during the game coming from the British player, whose every serve was accompanied by a rasping grunt as she took the first set 6-2; her final serve of the set being meekly hit into the net by the tall Croatian.

The second set also featured her racing into a 4-0 lead, most of her points on Vrljic’s serve coming from some excellent angled passing shots.

Despite losing, on her own serve, the fifth game in the set, she wrapped it up ten minutes later by breaking Vrljic again and then wrapping up the game, worth over £1,600 and more points in her world ranking, with two more aces.

‘Yesterday I felt dizzy, and didn’t think I’d even be able to play the final,’ said Vrljic, looking drained afterwards.

‘I didn’t move at all out there.

I was far too tired.’ While the Croatian goes back on tour, this time to Europe, Keothavong’s next game is later this week in Sunderland.

In the ladies’ doubles, after a promising start the British pairing of Katie O’Brien and Melanie South lost to Andrea Hlavacova (The Czech Republic) and Matea Mezak (Croatia) 6-3, 6-1.

The British pair had had a walkover on Saturday in the semi-final, with No 1 seed Elena Baltacha, partnered by Estonia’s Margit Ruutel, pulling out because of illness.

It was a hard-fought finale to the Jersey Tourism men’s satellite tournament on Saturday morning, with No 7 seed Phillip Marx of Germany battling back to deny British qualifier Ian Flanagan.

The tall, rangy Marx, celebrating his 24th birthday, took some time to warm to the occasion – indeed Flanagan held match point in the second – but his powerful serve eventually proved too much for the ‘exhausted’ Brit.

Flanagan had pushed his body hard in Jersey, having had to go through the qualifying rounds, and make a nonsense of his world ranking of 964 – some 546 places below Marx who, despite hailing from the Hamburg area, was complaining about the cold.

Flanagan eventually lost the second set 7-5 after winning the first 7-6 (4).

The man who famously beat Australian ace Mark Philippoussis did not surrender tamely in the third, but the young German looked the stronger in winning it 6-4 to record his fourth tournament victory.

Watched by Chief Minister Frank Walker and other senior politicians, both finalists heaped rich praise on the tournament’s organisation and the ‘excellent’ facilities at Les Ormes.

Marx, around £900 richer, now heads to Sunderland, rather optimistically ‘hoping it will be warmer there,’ chasing the second leg of the $50,000 satellite challenge of which Jersey was the first, compulsory leg.

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