Extracted from the Eastern Daily Press,Saturday, November 18, 2000
Norfolk junior Bloomfield continues to rise up the rankings and defy his coaches
"A blooming talent"
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Picture by Steve Adams
`Everyone thinks I am ahead of schedule, and no-one thought I would get these results' ~
The tennis year 2000 began for Richard Bloomfield at an unheralded junior tournament in the West African state of Togo.
All being well, 2001 will start in earnest for the 17-year-old at Melbourne Park, in the Australian Open boys' singles.
Whether you wish to measure the Alpington teenager's progress by location or the company he is keeping, the undeniable fact is that his career is fast moving in the right direction.
A year of targets hit, expectations exceeded and - literally and metaphorically - hitting the heights.
From 600 in the world junior standings up to 128 with the top 100 beckoning on January 1; from 5ft 8in to 6ft 1in and more to come.
The fall in ranking and rise in stature of Richard Bloomfield was confirmed in the National Championships at Telford last week where the Norfolk prospect was a shock presence in the last eight before a severe bout of food poisoning forced him to withdraw minutes before his quarter-final last Friday morning.
“I feel a bit robbed of my chance but I can say that no one beat me in the tournament,” an upbeat Bloomfield reported yesterday.
“I came into the Nationals quite relaxed and my coaches told me to go out and play as I can - be confident, then you can win it.'
And win he did in the first round, in straight sets, to despatch world number 311 Miles MacLagan a man who took Boris Becker to five sets at Wimbledon last year. “I just stepped it up at the end of the set, and after I won the tie-break he didn't really seem to know what to do. In the second I finished it quite comfortably”
Then came up-and-coming James Nelson, ranked 645, who took the first set before being seen on his way. `I always knew I could beat James. I didn't actually play that well, but I got better as it went on and ran away with it in the third.'
Those displays won Bloomfield praise from watching Davis Cup captain Roger Taylor and Lawn Tennis Association supremo Patrice Hagelauer and a day off before his meeting with teenage left-harder, and eventual runner-up, Mark Hilton.
There is a slight irony that it was illness that took its toll on a stronger, taller and fitter player who has powered through the year. A few match wins in west Africa set up the former Hobart High School pupil for a runners-up spot at an International Tennis Federation junior tournament in Israel in April, before winning a small domestic event in Hampshire and reaching another ITF final in Portugal. Then came the Wimbledon boys' tournament.
I had a good summer and it was coming through qualifying in Wimbledon that gave me confidence for the rest of the year. It made me better in finals later on”
Bloomfield's court 19 defeat -when he admits to being distracted by the crowd noise from Tim Henman's match on neighbouring court one - to a top 30 junior from Spain was the platform to launch his career. With his Norfolk ISA mentor Ron Allan, the youngster took up a place on a full-time UTA Squad based in Bath and the physical development that followed has paid instant dividends.
Bath has been good for me. It is hard work and I'm in the gym a lot more. In January Id been training but it was not as tough as this” Now he has the endurance level to sustain his form for a week rather then be spent by the time he got through qualifying - as shown by a first senior tournament win at Cambridge last month, becoming the first qualifier to triumph in a Girobank Tour event.
"Everyone thinks I am ahead of schedule and no one ever thought I would get these results", he admitted.
“I'll move up to about 70 in the ITF rankings in January when all the 18-year-olds drop off the list so I will definitely be in qualifying in Australia, but I might get into the main draw.”
Bloomfield is eligible for all four Grand Slam boys' singles events in 2001 but his eye is on stepping up soon to senior level, the massive leap that has been attempted by Norwich 20-year-olds Barry Fulcher and James Auckland in the past two years.
The pair currently sit in the high 800s on the world-ranking list -higher than both would believe their ability merits - after having to deal with the traditional problems of under funding and injuries.
“Barry and James have been good, but hopefully I will get better although I don't really know what to expect in the senior game” said Bloomfield, who admits that being under estimated by LTA coaches due to his size in recent years has fuelled his desire.
“I think I've done really well considering at under-14 level I didn't get on with the coaches at the LTA. "My fitness coach at Bath said I have until about 21 to fill out and grow properly”
The magic age of 21 would take Bloomfield up to the age at which Tim Henman started to turn potential into reality - and that is the standard by which British prospects will inevitably be judged until the next genuine home-grown player establishes himself at the highest level.
We don't really think about Tim and Greg Rusedski, but obviously I want to try and be like Tim,” said the likeable teenager, who has certainly set about his task in the right manner.