South: Time for a change

Fresh start: New Malden's Mel South in action at Wimbledon last week, where she reached the third round of the mixed doubles

Fresh start: New Malden's Mel South in action at Wimbledon last week, where she reached the third round of the mixed doubles

First published in Sport Richmond and Twickenham Times: Photograph of the Author by

New Malden’s Mel South is hoping a change of coach can help put a nightmare two years behind her and fire her back up the world rankings.

The world number 264, ranked in the world’s top 100 in 2009, has teamed up with Bath-based coach David Sammel having spent a spell in the tennis wilderness playing and losing in the game’s lower leagues.

A narrow 1-6 6-7 second round defeat to former world No 1 Jelena Jankovic at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham last month, after an impressive 6-1 4-6 6-3 first round triumph over Mirjana Lucic, has convinced the former Holy Cross School student she has a future in the game.

And South – who reached the third round of the mixed doubles at Wimbledon on Wednesday with fellow Brit Ken Skupski where they lost 4-6 7-6 7-9 to third seeds Nenad Zimonjic and Katarina Srebotnik – is hoping a fresh approach can bring a fresh start.

“I feel like I’m playing a lot better now. I’ve got a new set up now with David Sammel and he’s been really confident with me and getting me to play like I was before,” she said at SW19 last week.

“I’ve been working with him for about six weeks, since my trip to Japan. “Before then I haven’t had anyone helping me specifically over the past two years. It has been a bit general and hitting with people based at Roehampton. It has been tough.

“I completely lost my way and it has just been a case of finding my way back.

“My ranking has gone down and the LTA has been focusing on the younger players. Sometimes you don’t agree with that and sometimes you think you should get more help, but I wasn’t proving myself at the time.

“Now I am proving myself, I will just do it my own way and I will get back up there.”

South, who crashed out in the first round of qualifying for Wimbledon, has endured some miserable results on the singles circuit in recent seasons, with first round exits at low level tournaments in Korea, Estonia, Turkey, Japan, Belarus and Sutton.

But it has been interspersed with sporadic doubles title wins with two coming at Australian events in Sydney and Burnie earlier this year, helping keep her doubles ranking at 180 in the world.

South’s recent run with Skupski at Wimbledon, where she once enjoyed a first round singles win over Francesca Schiavone, has her smiling again and she is out to make the most of her second chance.

“My ranking didn’t get me into the qualifiers so I was really appreciative of a wildcard but had a tough first round draw and maybe expected too much of myself given my year.

“To be top 100 and then have a couple of bad years and still want to go travelling, you have to love it. It has been pretty bad and not the most enjoyable over the past few years.

“I’ve been to places where there were opportunities but I haven’t been confident enough to take them.

“The change of coach is more mental than anything. Tennis isn’t the hardest game. I’ve shown I’ve got the ability, it is just a case of getting the confidence back and having someone believing in me again.”

South and doubles partner Britain’s Tara Moore lost 6-4 4-6 1-6 to Lucic and Valeria Savinykh in the first round at SW19 last week.

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