Rusedski will turn to Teacher

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Having been given a lesson by Goran Ivanisevic in converting opportunities in the first round of the Italian Open here yesterday, Britain's Greg Rusedski will start working with a new teacher at the weekend: Brian Teacher, the American who won the Australian Open in 1980 and rose to No 7 in the world.

Rusedski will link up with Teacher before the St Polten tournament in Austria next week. The 41-year-old from Los Angeles will prepare Rusedski for the French Open and the grass-court season, culminating in Wimbledon, and a decision will then be made whether Teacher continues to coach Rusedski for the remainder of the year.

"I hope he can help me attain the mentality of a top 10 player so I can play the big points better," Rusedski said after demonstrating his need in losing to the second-seeded Ivanisevic, 7-6, 6-3. "Also I want Brian to work on my return of serve - he has worked with Agassi - plus improve my backhand. These three things are the most important to me now. Brian understands the mental aspect of being in a Grand Slam and playing important points, as he's played there and been a top 10 player.''

The new arrangement evolved after Rusedski's previous coach, Scott Brooke, decided he wanted to spend more time at home in America. Warren Jacques, the former British Davis Cup captain, travelled with Rusedski towards the end of last year. In an endeavour to find a replacement for Brooke, Rusedski's agent consulted Brad Gilbert, Andre Agassi's coach, and he recommended Teacher.

Rusedski's mighty serve has taken the Canadian-born 22-year-old to the position where he regularly competes with the best players in the world. The next step is for him to improve his all-round efficiency and to have the confidence to beat them.

"He was missing a lot," Ivanisevic said after yesterday's match. "I'm lucky he couldn't put five shots in a row in the court.''

Rusedski created seven break points, and converted only one. That enabled him to break back to 5-5 when Ivanisevic served for the opening set, Rusedski's service return being good enough to lure the Croat into missing with a backhand.

The prospect of an upset after Ivanisevic netted a shot and offered Rusedski a set point with the Briton leading, 6-5, evaporated as quickly as it appeared. Rusedski could hardly be criticised in this instance, as Ivanisevic whisked the opportunity away with a splendid angled forehand pass.

Rusedski found himself 4-0 down in the tie-break, but saved three set points before losing the shoot-out, 7-3.

It was the third meeting between the big-serving left-handers, and the first on a clay court. Ivanisevic also won the first two, played on fast indoor carpet surfaces in 1994. The difference here was that Ivanisevic's drop shots outnumbered his aces.

The Croat, who has won four titles this year, claims to have tighter control of his temperament nowadays, but he was fortunate to escape with only one rebuke for throwing his racket during the opening games of the second set.

Rusedski again had the first opportunities to break before faltering in the eighth game, hitting a forehand over the baseline after Ivanisevic had dealt comfortably with a second serve.

The Croat served out on his second match point then moaned about the heavy balls, the fact that Rusedski persisted in slicing and would not allow him to find a rhythm, and just about everything else.

He did not realise how lucky he was to escape the thunderstorms which followed.