Tennis: Briton rues missed volleys

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YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV brought Greg Rusedski's recent good form to a shuddering halt yesterday with a decisive 6-4, 6-2 semi-final victory at the ATP Indoor tournament in Rotterdam.

The British No 2 was hoping to secure a showdown final against his fellow countryman, Tim Henman, thanks to his powerful service game which had accounted for the Dutch wildcard Edwin Kempes and the Frenchman Cedric Pioline in the previous rounds.

Though he served up 17 aces, Rusedski never recovered after leaving the door open in the ninth game of the opening set after leading 40-15. Kafelnikov, who has climbed to number two in the world rankings since his Australian Open triumph in Melbourne, won the next four points.

Kafelnikov gained a reprieve when Rusedski failed to convert an easy chance at the net, his forehand volley landing wide to put the game at deuce. The Russian secured his break when another forehand volley from the tall left-hander crashed into the net, and then served out the set to love.

He quickly took control in the second set, breaking Rusedski's serve to love to take a 2-1 lead and then breaking again to go 4-1 up. Despite failing to overpower Rusedski with his own serve, Kafelnikov, who possesses one of the finest all-round games on the ATP tour, never gave the Briton a chance to break and wrapped up his victory in 59 minutes.

Meanwhile, the top-seeded Jana Novotna showed steadier nerves than Elena Likhovtseva yesterday on her way to the final of the WTA tournament in Hanover.

Novotna had edged out the Russian 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 in the semi-final of the $500,000 event after Likhovtseva made two simple errors in the final game and then produced a double-fault at match point.

Likhovtseva had led 4-3 in the second set, but the veteran Czech immediately broke back and went on to win the next three games.