Rusedski hits No 10 in rankings

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The Independent Online
The West Hants Club, an unlikely setting for tennis history, proudly took its place in the record books for a second time yesterday. Greg Rusedski was hailed as the first British man to reach the world's top 10 since computer rankings began in 1973.

Back in 1968 Britain's Mark Cox became the first amateur to defeat professionals in open completion, eliminating first Pancho Gonzales and then Roy Emerson in the Bournemouth tournament.

Moreover, British competitors are not noted for winning matches on slow clay courts such as the ones here, but nobody appeared to emphasise the point to Cox and Rusedski.

Other information withheld from Rusedski yesterday was the fact that he was already guaranteed to be ranked No 10 next Monday, win or lose his quarter-final against Lucas Arnold of Argentina. This was due to an unforced error, the failure to take account of ranking points about to be dropped by Austria's Thomas Muster.

When the oversight was discovered, it was decided to leave Rusedski with the notion that he still needed to advance to tomorrow's final of the Samsung Open in order to reach his goal. "I think it worked out better this way," he said after defeating Arnold, 7-6, 6-3. "It kept me motivated to get my ranking even higher.''

Word of Rusedski's new status swiftly reached Tashkent, 3,240 miles away, where Tim Henman, the British No 2, advanced to the semi-finals of a tournament on medium-paced concrete courts, defeating America's Vince Spadea, 6-3, 6-4.

Henman's response to Rusedski's progress was typical of their healthy rivalry. "That's a hell of an effort," the 23-year-old said, "but it's not a great surprise the way he's been playing. He deserves it.''

He added, "Two in the top 20 is not bad, but I need to pull my socks up now. That's what I'm doing here this week." Henman, seeded No 2, now plays Francisco Clavet, of Spain.

The Canadian-born Rusedski made his ambitions clear. "I'm not satisfied," he said. "I want to go higher and higher, and I have a good opportunity. No British player has been ranked in the top 10 in the Open era, but that doesn't compare to the greats.

"Fred Perry's the greatest [British] player who ever played the game. He won three Wimbledon titles in a row, and he won the United States, French and Australian titles, and everything. He stands alone. You can't compare with that. But I model myself on that, and I think I have a good opportunity to win a major championship.''

Rusedski served notice of that by reaching the final of the US Open last Sunday, and his performances here this week have underlined his determination to make the most of his abilities.

While some players might have reacted with a sense of anti-climax to the notion of leaving the massive Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York for a regular ATP Tour event on the south coast of England, Rusedski rose the the challenge.

Although fatigue set in, he successfully defended the ranking points he gained by reaching the quarter-finals last year, and pushed himself through another test against a natural clay-courter in beating Arnold yesterday.

Rusedski, the No 3 seed, will today play the top seed, Carlos Moya, of Spain, who was a singles finalist at the Australian Open. The other semi- final is between the No 2 seed, Felix Mantilla, of Spain, and Marcos Ondruska, of South Africa.

Cox was among those watching Rusedski's progress yesterday. The third highest ranked British male with Henman (No 14), behind Rusedski and Roger Taylor (No 11), Cox is director of the Lawn Tennis Association's Rover junior tennis initiative.

"Tremendous interest has been created by Greg's success at the US Open," Cox said. "The youngsters need someone to aspire to, and what Greg and Tim Henman are doing is making a tremendous difference.''

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