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Page last updated at 09:01 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 10:01 UK

Keothavong proud of ranking rise

By Olly Foster

Anne Keothavong
Keothanavong has won two titles this year

Four years ago Anne Keothavong became British number one for the first time.

I bumped into her at Wimbledon and asked her for a few pre-tournament comments. She declined, seemed rather bewildered by the request actually, and was spirited away by a phalanx of quite rude Lawn Tennis Association minders.

It left me feeling rather depressed about the state of the women's game.

Nothing odd there, but this was before a ball had been struck in anger. Surely she could have spared a couple of minutes to talk about her elevation "to best woman player in the country".

She was knocked out in the second round by someone called Maria Sharapova who went on to win the title. I forgot about Keothavong and fussed over Tim Henman instead.

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Good times on the way - Keothavong

Much has changed in four years. Henman is no more, Andy Murray has seemlessly adopted his mantle and Keothavong, well, she'll be going to Wimbledon again, her seventh visit, but this time she has been invited.

No wildcard or qualifying for her, as a top 100 player she is straight into the main draw.

"I'm more confident than I used to be," Keothavong told BBC Sport. "I believe now more in my game and in myself and it's just through hard work and sheer determination, I enjoy working hard and it's taken me a long way. It's an exciting time for me."

She has won two titles this year, the most recent in Lebanon, where her final had to be brought forward because of a battle being waged against Hezbollah in nearby Beirut.

It's been a goal of mine for so long to get into the top 100

Anne Keothavong

She got her winner's cheque and a minibus across the border into Syria as soon as she could. It was a bit of an eye-opener but the precious ranking points and entry into the 100 club made it worthwhile.

"It's tough no doubt about it, but I think I'm a pretty tough girl, I enjoy what I do as well and that helps.

"It's been an adventure, it's been a goal of mine for so long to get into the top 100 and now I'm there I can get invited to bigger and better tournaments, but it's not going to get any easier."

What is optimistic for the women's game is that she has had to tussle for the British number one spot with Katie O'Brien, another pushing for top 100 status.

And with three other women in the top 200, all moving in the right direction, there is much more strength in depth than in the men's game.

"It's brilliant there are five of us. Elena Baltacha, Katie, Melanie South, Naomi Cavaday and myself all pushing one another.

"We're all getting on with it and we all have our own individual goals and it's great to have a healthy rivalry and whilst we're all out there pushing each other it's great for women's tennis."

What is going on in the women's game rather makes a mockery of Andy Murray's comments in his new book that claim his fellow Brits are a lazy, demotivated bunch who do not make the best use of the LTA's new facilities.

"He's entitled to his opinions but I can only speak for myself," said Keothavong. "I'm a very hard worker and that's why I'm where I'm at. I know I work hard.

"I'm sure Andy is going to do well at Wimbledon but it would be great if I could do well there or any of the other girls.''

Keothavong moved into the quarter-finals at the Surbiton Trophy on Thursday after a straight sets win over the feisty American Ahsha Rolle, ranked 40 places below her in the world.

It was scrappy but Keothavong is the only British player left in either the men's or women's draw and she now faces another American, Carly Gullickson.

Her two titles so far this year have come on carpet and clay, so the first grass court tournament of the year heralds something of a homecoming for Keothavong.

"I enjoy playing here in England, it's great to have my friends and family here who are able to come and watch and support me. And I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks and hopefully I can do well.''




see also
British women finally on the up
28 Jan 08 |  Tennis
Keothavong falls in maiden semi
22 Sep 07 |  Tennis


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