TENNIS: IAN BURNS has gone where Tim Henman couldn't by winning his way to a Wimbledon final.
The 11-year-old from Irby will be playing in the under 14s finals of the Road to Wimbledon event after powering through several qualifying rounds.
The competition is open to all young players at LTA-affiliated clubs in England, Scotland and Wales. To get through, Ian won his club tournament at Heswall 7-6, 6-4 against Matt Knight before enjoying an easier ride in the county final, beating Harry Pennington 6-1, 6-0.
He now joins the rest of the county winners for a week at Wimbledon starting on August 18, along with the Cheshire girls winner Hannah Bates.
Ian's dad Geoff, who has been a member at Heswall for 30 years, said his son can't wait to step out on the famous courts. "He is definitely looking forward to it because of what Wimbledon means to every tennis player, the history of the place," he added. "He has never played there before so it is a tremendous opportunity for Ian and although we have been down there to watch, once the date of the game draws near, he will be really excited."
A right-handed attacking baseliner like his favourite player Gustavo Kuerten, Ian has a history of success since he started playing short tennis five years ago.
When he was eight he won the Cheshire under nine's tournament and has gone on to represent the county, including being part of the Cheshire national county cup winning teams in the last two years for under 10s and under 11s.
One of the reasons for his record is a powerful two handed backhand that Geoff says can catch his opponent s by surprise. "That is probably his strongest shot and a number of
coaches have told me how good it is. Often at this age players will hit towards the backhand, but they don't realise that is just playing into Ian's hands," he explained.
However Ian, who attends Calday Grange Grammar school, has still to make it to the national futures squad, something Geoff said is more than frustrating, especially as players Ian beats regularly make the cut. "We attended a camp a month ago and Ian won all of his games except for one, which he drew. The people there said everything was great with his game, apart from his service action," he added.
"We had the letter through a few weeks later saying he was not selected and Ian was obviously disappointed, gutted really. To use a technical issue on his serve is amazing really, because at this age everyone has technical issues. "It is not as if we can say for Ian to channel his frustration into proving them wrong because he has already proved it with his results so far. After the Ariel under 12 national competition for instance, Ian was ranked in the top six players across the country. It is almost as if results count for nothing, which is not how it should be in my opinion."
Putting the frustration aside, the lack of additional funding an LTA futures player receives is another hurdle in Ian's development.
Geoff said: "The county help us but we can't provide the same level of coaching that players on the programme receive and which is a key ingredient in a player's development, so that is difficult and we are always looking for sponsorship. "The good thing is Ian has tremendous dedication. We would not support him if he didn't, but the way he has peservered and the results he has had are a credit to him."
To find out more about sponsoring Ian, contact Geoff Burns via e-mail, geoff @burns0071.freeserve.co.uk
CHESHIRE OUT OF TOP FLIGHT
CHESHIRE men endured a difficult return to the top division of County Week at Eastbourne.
Playing the cream of the county teams for the first time in more than 65 years, Cheshire did not win a match as they were relegated.
Indeed they only managed to take seven rubbers from a possible 36.
They started on Monday where eventual champions Yorkshire triumphed 7-2, and then slumped to an 8-1 drubbing against Hampshire and the Isle of Wight on Tuesday.
On Wednesday the highlight against Surrey was a sparkling victory for Simon Dickson and Mark Hilton over Jeremy Bates and Danny Sapsford, but they still went down 7-2.
Then Kent overturned the team by the same score on Thursday, meaning Friday's planned game againstwas called off as they were already down.
The county's ladies team enjoyed more success in Division Three, but missed out on promotion.
They defeated Dorset 6-3, Hertfordshire 6-3 and Buckinghamshire 5-3, but lost 7-2 to Kent and 5-4 to Northumberland. It was those two teams who claimed the two promotion places.
Young stars at Upton
The Billington's West Cheshire Open Junior Tennis Tournament is under way at Upton Victory Hall, writes Andrew Stratton.
The tournament, which is in its 62nd year, has always remained popular and has again drawn a big entry with players travelling from various parts of the country and now some from abroad.
There are a total of 17 singles and doubles events and with so many games to get through, outside courts are being used to ensure smooth progress towards the finals.
Several players have gone on to reach great heights after playing at Upton. "It could be that another star will start out from here up the ladder to fame and fortune this time," said a Tournament Committee official.
All the finals are scheduled for Saturday from mid-morning.