Tennis: Rusedski puts on a happy face

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Greg Rusedski, beaten 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 by the Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the quarter-finals of the Paris Indoor Open yesterday, refused to be downcast after his defeat.

Ranked No 5 in the world, Rusedski knows he will go above the injured Goran Ivanisevic when the next list is announced on Monday.

"This has been a positive week for me in Paris," he said. "I had two very good matches and, even today, I thought I played pretty positive for most of the match. So I'm looking forward to Stockholm next week and then peaking for the ATP championship in Hannover."

Rusedski did not play as well as he did in crushing both the Dutch left- hander Jan Siemerink and the Czech Bohdan Ulihrach in earlier rounds, but Kafelnikov is a far better player than his first two opponents.

The 23-year-old Russian is ranked No 6 in the world, only one place below Rusedski, and was as high as No 3 last November. He dropped down the rankings after breaking his hand just before the Australian Open in January. The injury kept him out of action for several months.

Kafelnikov was also good enough to win the French Open in Paris last year, so it was not surprising that his ground strokes were far superior to any that Rusedski could produce.

Though he does not have the Briton's powerful service, he has a consistent first serve and a more reliable return.

Rusedski served 23 aces but missed too many volleys when coming in behind his service. That was a fatal flaw in the opening game of the match, when he missed three successive volleys from 30-15 up to lose his service. The break not only inspired Kafelnikov but earned the Russian the first set.

Rusedski got back into the match after breaking Kafelnikov in the sixth game of the second set to lead 4-2, punching the air with delight and holding his next two service games to level matters.

Then Rusedski had another poor game in the sixth game of the final set, missing an easy smash and then missing two seemingly easy forehand volleys to drop his service.

Rusedski never gives up and the Briton had a break point in the following game. He could not take advantage, however, and Kafelnikov ran out a good winner after 86 minutes.

Though the ATP will not confirm that Rusedski has qualified for Hannover, the player has no doubts. "It would need a miracle for me not to be in Hannover," he said.

"Now I'm going home to practise my returns and volleys a little more and sort everything out. I've just got to make sure I don't miss those few easy volleys. Then I will be all right."