Manners that maketh our man into a true Brit

He lost, but at least he smiled a lot. Tim Glover gauges reaction to the nation's new hero
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The Independent Online
No sooner had Greg Rusedski taken his bow in front of the Royal Box than the Duchess of Kent and her entourage trooped out. It was, of course, no reflection on the Great British hope from Canada, simply the observation of a social nicety. Big Greg has to understand that the call of a cucumber sandwich and a cup of Rosy Lee takes precedence.

Elsewhere, though, the Centre Court filled up. Rusedski may not know where Dewsbury, his mother's home town, is but he's got a big serve and he survived to the second week and that is more than enough reason to make him a local hero.

"We are hungry," David Lloyd, Britain's new Davis Cup captain, said, "and we need someone like Greg. I don't think you could have asked for anyone to handle the pressure so well. Before Wimbledon he had to put up with things like he's a typical Brit, he's losing'. We can forget where he came from and put GB after his name. The crowd have taken to him."

This is true. "He's got the right attitude," Zoe Parsons, 18, from Fleet in Hampshire, said. "He's not bad mannered and that's one of the reasons why the people are behind him." But what about his tennis? Zoe, who intends to pursue a career in sports psychology, elaborated. "He's cute and he's got a gorgeous smile."

In the previous round Rusedski wore a Union Jack bandana but yesterday he had the red without the white and blue. When he came on court he was greeted with half a dozen Union Jacks and the crowd - mostly young, mostly female - rose to him. Both Rusedski and Pete Sampras (shirts outside shorts) looked as if they had arrived to play in the Kirklees Metropolitan Council laidback doubles.

Appearances can be deceptive. Sampras, at home on the Centre Court, did not stand on ceremony. Afterwards he said that he was trying to "kick ass" and at the same time "wipe the smile off his face".

Rusedski, giggling, said:"He's never going to wipe the smile off my face no matter what. Pete took me very seriously and he has a lot of respect for my game." It didn't quite sound that way from Sampras. "There's not a whole lot of strategy involved when you play someone like Greg," Sampras said. "There are areas in which he will have to improve. He's got a big serve but when you get it back he's pretty average."

There was a cry of "Come on, Canada" before Rusedski took a tumble in a forlorn attempt to reach a Sampras volley. At 3-3 in the first set there was nothing between them but then the American with the un-American name somehow returned a Rusedski smash and that led to the first break and the beginning of the end. "I knew his home town fans would be behind him," Sampras joked. Rusedski finished with a double-fault and still the crowd remained loyal.

"They've been wonderful," he said. In return he signs autographs. "It's important to give something back."

He is only 21 and after David Lloyd, sounding like a Mountie, had named him in his Davis Cup team, Rusedski will now take his winning smile to Eastbourne for the somewhat easier assignment of tackling Monaco in a relegation play-off. "That should be fun," he said. He is the first player in living memory to describe playing Davis Cup tennis for Britain as fun.

Meanwhile, back in Yorkshire Rusedski made the front page of the Dewsbury Reporter and the paper said he planned to visit the town in December. It added, however, that he has no idea where Dewsbury is.