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  Saturday, 20 July, 2002, 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK
Young guns keen to impress
Lee Childs in action in the Davis Cup in Birmingham in April
Lee Childs enjoyed success in the Davis Cup in April
When Lee Childs won a match in his first-ever professional tournament in Brighton last year, he was immediately dubbed the new Tim Henman.

It remains to be seen whether he will make it to the top.

In the run-up to Wimbledon, the British national champion is bound to get plenty of publicity and probably wild-cards into grass court tournaments at home, the other 11 months of the year are a hard slog.

And his current ranking of 358 means he will not even get into the qualifiers for the French Open.

Arvind Parmar (l) and Tim Henman
Parmar (l) will be looking to learn from Henman

This year, Arvind Parmar, Jamie Delgado and Martin Lee will try their luck in Paris.

Lee, particularly, has at last started to catch the eye.

Until the last few months the former world junior number one, now aged 23, had failed to live up to the promise he showed as a teenager.

At the start of the year he was ranked 275 but some good results, including reaching the final of a challenger event in New Zealand, have seem him rise to 141.

He may never reach the higher echelons of the game, but in the last few months he has shown he is at least heading in the right direction.

Last year, Parmar, Barry Cowan and Delgado all made the trip over to Paris and went out in the first round of qualifying.

On the women's side, Louise Latimer, Julie Pullin, Lorna Woodroffe and Lucie Ahl all plan to play the qualifiers this year.

Louise Latimer at the Australian Open in January
Has Louise Latimer left it too late?

In 2000, Latimer, the British number one, won two matches but fell at the final hurdle before the main draw. Julie Pullin went out in the second round of qualifying.

Much has been made of Britain's failure to produce top-class tennis players. Greg Rusedski was trained in Canada, leaving only Henman coming through in the last 20 years.

Progress

This year the picture, if not exactly rosy, is at least a little brighter than it has been.

Britain can boast nine men in the top 400 and nine women in the top 300. That's about a 50 per cent improvement on 12 months ago.

The Lawn Tennis Association's performance director, Patrice Hagelauer, told BBC Sport Online: "Generally, things have got better. But on clay it is difficult.

"We do not have many clay courts in Britain and those we have are often made unplayable by the weather. There are so many specialists on the surface that British players will be at a disadvantage.

"At the moment we are still planning our clay-court strategy.

"Next year, we plan to have a training base for British players in La Manga, Spain, where they will be able to play for six or seven hours a day without interruption.

"There's no secret. The more time you spend on clay, the better you are at it," he said.

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