Busy Rusedski must raise game

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The Independent Online
You never know what to expect on grass, Goran Ivanisevic mused. A trio of Brits in the third round of the Stella Artois Championships, for example, one of whom, the 19-year-old Martin Lee, is due to face the whimsical Croat today.

Michael Chang knows what to expect on the sport's fastest surface, and in his case it does not amount to a lot. The world No 2, paying his first visit to the lawns of Queen's Club, was eliminated in his opening match by Scott Draper, the talented Australian left-hander.

Draper now plays Greg Rusedski, who will need to raise his game after surviving a nervous afternoon against Kevin Ullyett, a South African qualifier, ranked No 174. Then there is Tim Henman, the British No 1, who must overcome the challenge of Jens Knippschild, of Germany, ranked No 105. Knippschild has advanced at the expense of one of last year's Wimbledon semi-finalists, Jason Stoltenberg, and the Frenchman Olivier Delaitre, who curtailed Henman's trip to the French Open in round one.

Rusedski, it must be admitted, did reach the third round here in 1994, but in those days he was still pounding his serves as a Canadian. Yesterday, he appeared to have squandered his opportunity after failing to convert any of three match points at 5-4 in the third set.

Ullyett, having forced a tie-break, created two match points of his own. Rusedski served away the first, at 5-6, only to double-fault to present his opponent with another opportunity at 6-7. This time Rusedski salvaged the match with an emphatic backhand cross-court service return and clinched the shoot-out, 9-7, on his fourth match point, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6.

To be fair, Rusedski had a busy day, having first completed his first- round match against Australia's Mark Woodforde, which had been suspended overnight because of rain at one set all and 1-1. Rusedski completed the task, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Draper required five match points in defeating Chang, who fought back after losing the opening set and actually had a match point in the third set tie-break. Draper saved it and was relieved to see Chang loop a forehand long at 6-7 to lose the match, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6.

The question now is whether the three Brits can emulate Chris Bailey (1989) and Jeremy Bates (1994), the only two home representatives to have advanced to the quarter-finals.

Lee, who wears yellow and blue outfits similar to the ones in which Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten triumphed at the French Open, must hope to catch Ivanisevic on one of his more eccentric days.

After defeating Leander Paes, of India, yesterday, 7-6, 6-3, Ivanisevic revealed that he did not finally decide to play until an hour before the match because of a wrist injury. "I hope it doesn't get any worse," he said.

His thoughts on playing Lee? "I know who he is, but I never saw him play," Ivanisevic said. "I don't talk about playing British players. I lost to [Chris] Wilkinson here and to [Nick] Brown at Wimbledon." Not to mention saving a match point against Chris Bailey with an ace on a second serve.

Pete Sampras seemed pleased to set his feet on grass after failing again to dominate on the clay of Paris. The world No 1 defeated Javier Frana, of Argentina, 6-3, 6-2 in less than an hour, in his opening match.

"It's like I never left after last year," Sampras said. "I got used to the court and the balls on Monday, when I played doubles [with Henman]. I'm happy with the way I played today, and I have no complaints."