Rusedski begins British service

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The Independent Online
He may not sound much like Fred Trueman, but there are sufficient traces of Yorkshire in Greg Rusedski to enable the Canadian to be transformed into Britain's No 1 yesterday. He is credited with the fastest serve in tennis - 137mph - and in the past month has won one ATP Tour title and been a finalist in another.

On Sunday Rusedski was the runner-up to the Australian Todd Woodbridge, 6-4, 6-2, in Coral Springs, Florida. The tournament was played on slow clay courts, traditionally alien to British players; one of the reasons why the nation has slumped to its lowest point in Davis Cup history.

Rusedski's transfer is in time for him to be eligible for David Lloyd's inaugural squad for the tie against Monaco at Eastbourne the week after Wimbledon, a play-off to avoid relegation to Group Three of the Euro/African Zone as a consequence of six consecutive defeats.

The 21-year-old left-hander, ranked No 46 in the world, was born and raised in Montreal, but his mother was born in Dewsbury and he has a British passport and an English girlfriend. Crucially, the International Tennis Association accepted that he had spent most of his free time during the past three years living in Purley, Surrey, which satisfied the criteria for residential qualification.

Rusedski is the latest overseas import by the Lawn Tennis Association, who trust that he will make a greater impact than the American Monique Javer and the South African Neil Broad have achieved in recent years.

In spite of the millions in Wimbledon profits handed to the LTA, British tennis is a mockery and will remain so unless players emerge who are capable of competing at international level. Having elected to switch allegiance, Rusedski must accept the burden of expectation shouldered for so long by Jeremy Bates.

Rusedski, at 6ft 3in, is custom-made for the modern power game, his mighty serve affording him an advantage denied to the skilful Bates. Though not all of his new team-mates welcome Rusedski's arrival, any success he achieves may help raise interest in the sport in Britain.

While the Davis Cup team were losing in the Slovak Republic, Rusedski succeeded Bates in winning the South Korean Open. He first aroused British interest after winning a challenger tournament at Newcastle in 1992. The following year he lost a close first- round match against Stefan Edberg at Wimbledon, and shortly afterwards won his first main Tour event, on grass at Newport, Rhode Island.