Rusedski is served by a new teacher

Simon O'Hagan explains why the adopted Briton is keen to keep learning
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The Independent Online
The reputation tennis players have for changing their coaches almost as frequently as they do their rackets is not based on any example set by Greg Rusedski. So the British No 2's acquisition last week of a new coach in the former top-10 American Brian Teacher is significant, not least because of its timing.

The next two months represent the high-point of the tennis year. The French Open begins a week tomorrow. Two weeks after it finishes comes the start of Wimbledon. Following almost immediately is an awkward-looking Davis Cup tie in which Rusedski and his fellow Britons must travel to Ghana. Then, in late July, it's the Olympic Games, which Rusedski has committed himself to and in which he has a good chance of a medal.

During the same period last year Rusedski could do little wrong. Having just been unveiled as a British player, the former Canadian reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, made a successful Davis Cup debut, and threw himself into his cheer-leading duties with a gusto that went down a storm with the fans. Towards the end of the year he got himself up to 38th in the world rankings.

In recent months, however, the difficulty of maintaining progress when up against the very best has become apparent. Narrow defeats at the hands of Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and Yevgeny Kafelnikov were notable for the way Rusedski had chances but blew them, and it is partly in the hope of tightening up mentally on big points that he has turned to Teacher. "You can't beat the sort of experience Brian has," Rusedski said last week.

It is still something of a shot in the dark. When Scott Brooke, Teacher's predecessor, decided after three years that he no longer wanted to do the travelling the job involved, Rusedski's agent John Mayotte - brother of Tim - had to go recruiting. The advice of Brad Gilbert, Andre Agassi's coach, was sought, and he recommended Teacher mainly on the strength of the work he had done early in Agassi's career, particularly with his return of serve. It sounded good enough for Rusedski, even though he and Teacher had never met.

"We spoke on the phone and it felt as if we were on the same wavelength," Rusedski said. "What was important was that Brian played in a similar style to me. He was very much a serve and volleyer, and he was very aggressive on his groundstrokes. We're going to try it for six weeks and then decide from there." The return of serve is an area Rusedski particularly wants to work on. "It's a question of choosing whether to block or slice, and maybe there's something technical Brian can help with."

Teacher, like Gilbert, was not one of the most naturally gifted of tennis players, but he maximised his potential and, at 6ft 3in, the same height as Rusedski, played a vigorous game of which a deadly overhead was a particular feature.

It was an approach that was good enough to win him the Australian Open in 1980 - admittedly a year in which many of the leading players of the day stayed away from the tournament. He was also a quarter-finalist in Australia in 1982 and at Wimbledon the same year, when he took Tim Mayotte to five sets.

Now 41 and a yoga enthusiast, Teacher lives in his native California, where he had been working as a club coach when the Rusedski offer came along. "I was keen to get back on the road," he said. "It's too early to say what areas I think we'll be working on as I've only seen Greg on video. But he's got a lot to offer and I'm looking forward it."

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