Tennis: COMPAQ Grand Slam Cup - Rusedski puts points before prize money

The $6m Compaq Grand Slam Cup starts today, with Britain's Greg Rusedski among the 16 participants laughing all the way to the bank. John Roberts reports from Munich.
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The Independent Online
Finally, in its eighth year, the Compaq Grand Slam Cup has found a place in the calender closer to the four major championships it represents. The fact that the dollarfest now coincides with the Munich Oktoberfest is incidental, although a number of the players here appeared to make some reference to hangover. This, on second hearing, turned out to be Hanover, the venue of the ATP Tour Championship.

The players, while happy to take a share of the $6m (pounds 4m) on offer in Munich, continue to view the largess of the Grand Slam Cup as small beer compared to the prestige of contesting next month's eight-man ATP Tour finale.

Greg Rusedski, who qualified to make his debut in the Olympic Hall today by advancing to the United States Open final and the Wimbledon quarter- finals, typifies the general attitude. "If I do well at the Slam Cup, it's great," the British No 1 said, "but if I don't I'm not going to be disappointed, because the indoor season on the main Tour is much more important to me.''

In December last year, Oxford's Tim Henman broke a holiday to travel to Munich as an alternate, found himself in the competition and left with $431,250 after losing to Boris Becker in the semi-finals. En route, Henman eliminated Michael Stich and MaliVai Washington.

Rusedski, guaranteed $100,000 even if he loses his first-round match against Australia's Todd Woodbridge, has decided to invest his prize money in a new apartment in London. "For me," he said, "the Grand Slam Cup is something nice, to be able to compete with the top 16 players in the world. But I would rather be in Hanover for the last eight. I think that's the main goal for any player.

"There are no points involved in the Grand Slam Cup," Rusedski added. "You can make a lot of money, but the most important thing is trying to get in the top eight in the world to get to the ATP World Championships. I've a good opportunity if I can play well in the indoor season.''

With seven weeks remaining, Rusedski, currently ranked No 10 in the world, is in 12th position in the season-long race for Hanover. While declaring the ATP Tour finals his priority, Rusedski needs no reminding that the fast court in Munich offers wealth along with a new experience to a player with his huge serve. Moreover, he has learned much from his progress at the US Open.

"After the US Open, everybody said I was going to lose in the first round in Bournemouth [on slow clay]," Rusedski said. "I had to go there hungry. If I hadn't gone there hungry, I don't think I would have made the semis.

"Mentally competing - being in there, every point, every match - makes the difference between getting to the top and not. I mean, look at Pat Rafter, the way he competes so well. That's what got him to win a Grand Slam. Just by competing, you improve your game and you improve your confidence. It makes a huge difference.''

Woodbridge, half of the world's top doubles team, lost to Pete Sampras in the Wimbledon singles semi-finals, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6.

Although disappointed not to be on the winning side in last weekend's Davis Cup semi-final against the United States in Washington DC, Woodbridge took pride in the way he and his compatriot Mark Woodforde defeated the brilliant Sampras and Todd Martin in the doubles rubber.

"I think today's match was the answer to those people who say we don't play against the best players in doubles," Woodbridge said.

It may be remembered that Woodbridge, one of a minority of players who are less than 6ft tall, defeated Rusedski, 6-1, 6-2, in the second round of the Stella Artois Championships on the lawns of Queen's Club last year.

After that match, the Australian discussed his ability to turn opponents' strengths against them. "I was lucky to get out of the first game," he conceded. "I just hung together, and from then on I returned well and nullified his weapon [Rusedski's serve]. Everything else in my game is better, and I think that showed.

"Unfortunately, on certain days you can't beat these guys," he added. "They serve too big and take a swing at your serves and their returns go in.''

As well as losing the match that day, Rusedski had some of his tennis clothing stolen from the locker-rooms. He seems far less vulnerable nowadays, on and off the court.

THE COMPAQ GRAND SLAM CUP

Winner $1.5m (pounds 1m)

Runner-up $750,000

Semi-finalists $425,000

Quarter-finalists $250,000

First-round losers $100,000

Alternates (2) $50,000 each

Bonuses - $1m ($250,000 to the winner of each Grand Slam who participates) - $500,000 Pete Sampras (Australian Open and Wimbledon), $250,000 Gustavo Kuerten (French Open), $250,000 Patrick Rafter (United States Open).

In addition, $2m is donated annually by the tournament to the Grand Slam Development Fund, which is administered by the International Tennis Federation for the growth of the sport.

TODAY'S FIRST ROUND (12.0 BST)

C Pioline (Fr) v F Dewulf (Bel)

Y Kafelnikov (Rus) v S Bruguera (Sp)

M Rios (Chile) v *M Woodforde (Aus)

G Rusedski (GB) v T Woodbridge (Aus)

TOMORROW (12.0)

T Muster (Aut) v P Rafter (Aus)

B Becker (Ger) v J Bjorkman (Swe)

P Korda (Cz Rep) v G Kuerten (Bra)

P Sampras (US) v F Mantilla (Sp)

* Replaces Richard Krajicek, who withdrew yesterday with an Achilles tendon injury.

Previous winners: 1996: B Becker; 1995: G Ivanisevic (Croa); 1994: M Larsson (Swe); 1993: P Korda; 1992: M Stich (Ger); 1991: D Wheaton (US); 1990: P Sampras (US).

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