Auckland launches bid for world top 50

Norfolk's James Auckland is gunning for a place in the world's top 50 this week as he kicks off his St Petersburg Open title challenge alongside Ross Hutchins in the doubles.

Norfolk's James Auckland is gunning for a place in the world's top 50 this week as he kicks off his St Petersburg Open title challenge alongside Ross Hutchins in the doubles.

The 27-year-old, who trains at the National Tennis Centre in Roehamp-ton, is aiming to become part of the first ever all-British pairing to join the world's elite after forming a new-look doubles' partnership alongside 22-year-old Hutchins.

The pair appear to be on a roll after landing the Istanbul Challenger doubles title in August, while Auckland finished as runner-up at both the Surbiton and Zagreb Challengers alongside Stephen Huss and Jamie Delgado respectively in June.

Auckland, who is desperate to climb the world rankings and qualify for January's Australian Open, has happy memories of St Petersburg having reached the semi-finals alongside the now retired Wayne Arthurs last season.

"We've never had a British partnership in the top 100 before and we've got our sights set on getting into the top 50 as soon as we can," said Auckland, who will play the Czech pairing of Lukas Dlouhy and Pavel Vizner in the first round in Russia this week.

"That would send a message to some of the younger players that they should take doubles more seriously and develop more of them.

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"We are going to play together for the rest of the year and see what happens. We might not get into the Australian Open because of our ranking but we are going to use the rest of the year to see if we can get to Melbourne and then we will review it. Ross has had a great year and seeing him dedicate the rest of his career to doubles was a good idea and it's been a very positive move for him.

"Having a successful singles career is obviously the dream for every tennis player coming through. We've spent a lot of time together recently and also played a couple of tournaments in Mumbai and Monz (Belgium)."

Meanwhile, British No 1 doubles' star Jamie Murray is backing the new-look pairing of Hutchins and Auckland to break into the world's top 100 this season.

Murray, whose brother Andy is the British No 1, turned his back on singles and his decision has proved successful as the young Scot clinched the mixed doubles' title at Wimbledon earlier this year alongside Jelena Jankovic.

With Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski now having both retired, John Lloyd's British Davis Cup team will rely heavily on the Murray brothers during next year's World Group tie against Argentina.

However, Murray is backing Hutchins and Auckland to motor up the world rankings in the doubles in the coming months and provide true international class support for the Scottish pairing.

"The guys like Auckland and Hutchins have got to grasp this chance," said Murray. "The only way they will do that is by working hard on the practice courts and producing the results that will see people sit up and take notice.

"It's been great to see Auckland and Ross working their way up the doubles rankings and long may that continue - they look like a formidable pairing.

"The decision to move to doubles worked for me and I've not regretted it - how can I when you look at where I've played? I play at the highest level of tennis week in, week out and it's helped my game get to the next level.

"There are opportunities for people to come through the rankings and make a push into the higher levels of the game - it's just about their attitudes and results - Ross and Jamie could be next."