Tennis: Rusedski head to head with Henman

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The Independent Online
Greg Rusedski paved the way for an intriguing all-British semi- final match today against Tim Henman in the CA Trophy in Vienna. Rusedski set up the match between Britain's top two players with a three-set victory over the American Todd Martin.

Earlier, Henman booked his place by repeating last week's 6-4, 6-1 defeat in Basle of Slovakian Karol Kucera. Rusedski, the world No 4, has met Henman three times and is looking for his first win.

The Canadian-born player won through to the last four 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 in a match in which he served 24 aces.

Rusedski's serve was too much for his opponent in the opening set and he romped home after breaking Martin's first service game. The British No 1 broke again to go 5-1 up and predictably served out.

But Martin fought back to take the second set on the tie-break after saving a break-point at 5-5. Rusedski was clearly frustrated at not being able to dispose of Martin and hurled his racket in anger after losing the 12th and final point of the tie-break, having saved two set-points.

The left-hander had to save a break-point in third game of the third set, but in the next game he broke to go 3-1 ahead and the rest of the set went with serve, ending appropriately with an ace.

Rusedski refused to hype up the clash with Henman and was more interested in qualifying for the ATP World Championships in Hanover next month.

"As far as tomorrow goes, it will be just another match, although an important one on the road to Hanover which is my goal," he said. "It was a good win for me, especially as it was the first time I have beaten Todd."

Henman last faced Rusedski at last year's National Championships in Telford, but knows things are a bit different now.

"Greg is obviously playing the best tennis of his career now," Henman said. "He will be worth a lot of points at the moment."

It was not all plain sailing for Henman as he struggled to conquer Kucera in the first set. In the fifth game Henman appeared to have made his early advantage count when Kucera double-faulted at two break-points to give Henman the advantage.

But in the ninth game Kucera survived two set-points on Henman's serve to break back.

"At 5-3, 40-15 in the first set I lost the rhythm of my serve and allowed him to break back," Henman admitted. "But in the second set I played as good as I have in a long time."

The scare rocked Henman and he swiftly recovered to snatch the set 6- 4 on his fourth match-point. The second set went with serve until Henman found some excellent form, particularly a cross-court drop-shot which left the Slovakian rooted to the baseline, to break in the fourth game to gain a 3-1 lead.

Henman cruised through the next game for a 4-1 lead as a clearly wearied Kucera wilted. Henman broke again for a 5-1 and retained his serve for victory.