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The Future's bright for Eaton

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Report: Eaton raises British hopes at Wimbledon

By Aimee Lewis

Last month, Chris Eaton, Britain's newest tennis hero, was making long-distance journeys across Uzbekistan in a taxi to travel to his latest tournament on the no-frills Futures Circuit.

"There's no glamour. There's nothing. There's no atmosphere," said the 20-year-old.

But it was all a little different for the world number 661 on Tuesday.

With a throng of 40,000 spectators - some in wacky hats, some drinking champagne, some even watching tennis - Wimbledon cannot be accused of lacking in ambiance.

And on Court Three on a balmy evening, Eaton experienced the spine-tingling aura of the world's greatest tennis tournament for the first time in his career, and added a bit of sparkle to the event himself.

Hundreds had gathered around the court to watch the qualifier from Surrey; the stand was full to capacity and they queued to get into the walkway.

As the players entered the court not everyone could confidently identify which one was the Brit.

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But after he despatched Serbia's Boris Pashanski with such panache, winning 6-3 7-6 6-4 and landing 26 aces, children gathered excitedly around him to get his autograph. A little recognition at last.

Indeed, the big-serving right-hander, the lowest-ranked player in the men's draw, made such an impression that everyone is wondering why he has not made an impact before now.

During his teenage years, Eaton was compared with Tim Henman, a fellow former student of Reed's School in Surrey.

Eaton may lack the former British number one's all-round game but he has a serve that would be the envy of the perennial Wimbledon semi-finalist, winning 74% of the points when his first serve landed against Pashanski.

"This guy is the real deal - that's how you serve," said an overjoyed Justin Sherring, Eaton's coach at the Weybridge Tennis Academy where the youngster trained until he joined the Lawn Tennis Association full-time in 2004.

Pictured supplied by Reed's School/PA
As a junior Eaton was once ranked second in Britain
"If he serves like that, it's going to take a really special returner to keep with him."

Eaton, who was also a talented cricketer, started playing tennis aged six and, as a junior, was once ranked second in Britain.

Adrian Blackman, head of tennis at Reed's, remembers a straight-A student who took to the game a little later than the other pupils.

"He was always a big boy and very strong," Blackman, who used to play doubles with Henman, told BBC Sport.

"He was a late developer, had a great work ethic and by the time he was 16 he felt he was going to be a professional.

"His victory against Pashanski will be a massive boost and he can go on and beat a lot of players. His serve is his real weapon."

At a time when Britain's young tennis stars are being accused of being mollycoddled, Eaton, who had to beat six opponents just to make the main draw at Wimbledon, has shown a dogged determination to succeed.

He lives with his parents, Mike and Sue, in the village of East Horsley near Guilford, and drives a Vauxhall Astra with duct tape on one mirror.

Eaton fans
Fans queued to get into Court Three to watch Eaton
His career earnings so far total 13,500, which will be eclipsed by the minimum of 17,000 - a fee which Eaton admits will help "fund his life" - he will receive for reaching the second round at Wimbledon.

Not that life will change all that much for the Englishman. He strung his own rackets ahead of the match against Pashanski and will continue to do so.

"We have a stringing machine at the National Tennis Centre. I always string my racquets there," he said.

"I know exactly how the racquet's going to come out. I thought I may as well do it myself, then I know exactly what I'm getting.

"For the next tournament I play, I'll just try to do exactly the same thing I'm doing here - focusing, working hard in the gym, working hard on the court. Hopefully it will continue."

Before he contemplates his next tournament, however, Eaton will face 25th seed Dmitry Tursunov, who beat Henman in five sets at Wimbledon in 2005.

Eaton will be third on Court One on Thursday and should he beat the Russian then a certain hill at SW19 might need renaming.


see also
Briton Eaton continues progress
24 Jun 08 |  Tennis
Cool on Britannia
24 Jun 08 |  Tennis
Wimbledon day two photos
24 Jun 08 |  Tennis
Murray gets past tricky Santoro
24 Jun 08 |  Tennis


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