DORSET ace Shirli-Ann Siddall can look back on her professional tennis career with pride.

After all, she was British number two, rose to 181 in the world rankings and played - and won - at Wimbledon.

But if the honorary West Hants Club life member, who celebrated her 33rd birthday on June 20, still has one regret, it would be her women's singles first round defeat against Jennifer Capriati in 1993.

That's because Siddall, then still an aspiring teenager, believes she could have won instead of slipping to a 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-1 defeat against the precocious 17-year-old American.

Looking back, Siddall, whose premature retirement from pro tennis in 1998 was hastened by a persistent back injury, said: "When I played Capriati, I lost it myself more than anything.

"I was panicking so much because I was winning against a player ranked in the top 10 in the world.

"It wasn't until I watched the match on video afterwards that I realised she was getting really angry with herself. I didn't realise at the time because I was so panicky and worrying about myself that I didn't look up.

"What I should have done was look down the other end of the court and see what my opponent's body language was, and try to take advantage of it.

"If it is poor, that is a tip I would pass on to every junior player now because anything can happen. I was lucky enough that I had quite a good game for grass courts, whereas a lot of people didn't.

"So one versus one, I knew I had a chance against her that day. But if I had Capriati on hard courts, I knew I wouldn't have had much of a chance.

"When you get a top 10 or 20 player, it is another level. They are just amazing players and I'm just happy that I had the chance to play some of the top stars of the time."

Siddall, who now lives in Poole with her husband Nick and their two-year-old daughter Emily, played at Wimbledon five times from 1992 to 1997.

She had a win-lose record of two-five, beating Valda Lake (Great Britain) and Christina Singer (Germany), but bowing out to Claudia Porwik (Germany), Capriati, Kimiko Date (Japan), Lorencia Labat (Argentina) and Helena Sukova (Czech Republic).

Siddall, who could have beaten Sukova as well at All-England, represented GB in the Federation Cup, European Cup and Maureen Connolly Trophy, and won seven singles and 10 doubles titles at satellite level.

She also had the distinction of coming up against Martina Navratilova, arguably the greatest female player of all time, Mary-Joe Fernandez, Ai Sugiyama and Zina Garrison at Eastbourne or Beckenham during an eight-year pro career.

Siddall, who won seven out of eight national titles at under-16 and 18 level in 1990, said: "Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon was the most nerve-wracking time. You think please don't give me the number one seed' because although it is great to play them, you want an easier opponent so you have a better chance of winning and climbing the world rankings.

"The other side is wow, it's exciting, I'm going to be playing Martina Navratilova and how many British players can say they did that'."

Siddall, who still coaches tennis, added: "It was very scary to be playing at Wimbledon to start with. But it was also what every British player aspires to and I was lucky enough to play there in five tournaments.

"Even being a spectator there, that is something special, so being a player is quite simply amazing, so you can imagine how I felt. It was a dream come true.

"The first year I got a wild card, I was lucky to play another British player, Valda Lake, first so I wasn't as nervous as I could have been. I beat her and won two of my seven singles matches there, and doubles as well.

"I'm really proud that not only had I managed to play at Wimbledon, but that I won some matches.

"Just to get the chance to perform on those grass courts alone was fantastic, even more so with the British crowd fully behind you."