WHISPERS had been circulating around Ilkley Lawn Tennis & Squash Club for a day or two about a 14-year-old wild card in the men’s singles.

And watching Benjamin Gusic-Wan in the flesh was no disappointment – quite the opposite in fact.

The former winner of the 12 & under Orange Bowl, the prestigious global title, as well as the British 12 & under crown, it is no exaggeration to say that Gusic-Wan had Ilkley second seed and defending LTA British Tour champion Jordan Reed-Thomas worried in their second-round clash.

Gusic-Wan, not 15 until November, exuded skill and calm in spades, shrugging off a 6-1 defeat in the first set to force a break point at 4-3 in the second set before losing it 7-4 on a tie-break.

Not surprisingly, many spectators, players and officials thought that they were looking at the future of British tennis in the teenager , who looks younger than his years but represented Kent last week in the cut-throat world of County Week.

Rain again forced all of the British Tour matches indoors, and Reed-Thomas admitted: “Ben played really well, especially in the second set, and has loads of talent.

“It took him all of the first set to get up to speed and he decided to be more aggressive in the second set, which was very tight.”

Gusic-Wan was told by a friend that the indoor courts were slow and it took him a set to find out that they weren’t!

He coped well with Reed-Thomas’ greater pace in the second set, even returning his second serve from inside the baseline in an excellent display of hand-eye co-ordination.

Reed-Thomas now faces hard-hitting qualifier Stefan Cooper from Devon.

At the top of the draw, Clay Crawford, on the comeback trail, also progressed to the quarter-finals on the way to another potential all-Leeds final, with the 27-year-old defeating Thomas Loxley 6-3, 6-4.

Crawford now faces the unseeded Adam Groves, and the winner will meet either Ilkley 19-year-old JB Pickard or eighth seed Matthew Doe.

Qualifier Pickard defeated powerful Warwickshire left-hander Richard Partridge, who was seeded fourth, 5-7, 6-3, 1-0 (10-8).

Pickard said: “I didn’t think that I was going to outlast him because his serve was always going to be huge.

“I got a luckyish break at the start of the second set and that was enough, but I played well overall, although my forehand was a bit dodgy at points, although it got me out of a few hole so I can’t complain.

“It felt inevitable that it was going to go to a champions’ tie-break, where I was 7-3 up but then I played a couple of loose shots and he played well.

“At 9-8 I just knew that I had to make a first serve.

“As for the tournament I didn’t have any expectations going into it so I haven’t surpassed them.”

Paul Johnson, assistant coach at Leeds Beckett University, could not make it four West Yorkshire players into the last eight as he lost to qualifier Stefan Cooper (Devon) 6-3, 6-4.

A Yorkshire quarter-finalist was guaranteed in the women’s singles as 15-year-old Molly Robinson of Huddersfield faced 16-year-old ‘lucky loser’ Alice Brook from Ilkley, with Robinson winning 6-3, 7-6 (7-1) in exactly two hours.

Again Brook got plenty of balls back into court and can be happy with her week as she builds up her experience before a likely move to college tennis in the United States.