Tennis: Duel with the `Scud' first up for Rusedski

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The Wimbledon groundstaff devote all that tender, loving care to manicuring the lawns, and what happens? The world's biggest servers, Mark Philippoussis and Greg Rusedski, are sent out to launch missiles at each other in the opening round.

"Scud" Philippousis's record deliveries have been timed at 142 mph, while Britain's Rusedski is no slouch at 139 mph. Fortunately there is still time for the BBC to arrange to lighten the show with captions like the ones in the old Batman series... "POW!', "BAM!", "HOLY ACES!". The script will take care of itself. The outcome of the contest will depend on which Batman returns.

It will be bad luck for one of them to have been drawn to meet at the start of the tournament. The BBC, however, will no doubt have opportunities to put the captions to further use throughout the fortnight, particularly since Philippoussis, seeded No 7, is projected to play Goran Ivanisevic, the No 2 seed, in the quarter-finals.

Witnesses to the bombardment when the 20-year-old overpowered Ivanisevic to win the Stella Artois title at Queen's Club last Sunday will know what to expect. Bear in mind, though, that if they do meet at the All England Club the pyrotechnics will be scheduled to continue for at least three sets.

Rusedski, who came within the width of the net-cord tape of defeating Ivanisevic in the semi-finals at Queen's before losing in a tie-break, 20-18, was certainly not despondent after learning that he had drawn Philippoussis. "There are a lot of matches you would have chosen before that one," he said. "It could have been an easier draw, but it works both ways. It's tough for him as well."

He added: "If you're going to do well at Wimbledon, you have to play these guys sometime. It's probably better to play them on the first day, when the court is lusher."

Last year, Rusedski defeated Canada's Daniel Nestor in the first round, so he might be able to pass on a few tips to Tim Henman, the British No 1, who has drawn Nestor on this occasion.

Henman, the No 14 seed, is in Ivanisevic's half of the draw and is projected to meet Richard Krajicek, the defending champion, in the fourth round. Britain's Jamie Delgado is a possible second-round opponent for Henman, who 12 months ago became the nation's first man to reach the last eight since Roger Taylor in 1973. Thomas Muster or Gustavo Kuerten, the French Open champion, are the other seeds in Henman's quarter. Muster opens against Britain's Chris Wilkinson.

As cruel draws go, the first-round match between Germany's Michael Stich, the 1991 champion, and Jim Courier, the runner-up in 1993, takes some beating. Whatever Stich achieves this time, he intends to bid auf wiedersehen to the championships.

If Andre Agassi decides to make an appearance he will play Spain's Carlos Moya, a finalist at the Australian Open.

Pete Sampras, who might well be facing Boris Becker in the quarters, opens against Michael Tillstrom, who brought his fellow Swede Stefan Edberg's Wimbledon career to a close in the second round last year.

Michael Chang, No 2 in the world but demoted to fifth seed, will do well to make it to a possible fourth-round match against Australia's Pat Rafter. Indeed, Chang might have difficulty advancing beyond a first round match against another Aussie, Todd Woodbridge.

Martina Hingis, the women's world No 1, opens against a qualifier and is projected to meet the big-serving Brenda Schultz-McCarthy in the fourth round and the powerful Lindsay Davenport in the quarters.

Iva Majoli, who defeated Hingis in the French Open final, could play the 16-year-old Swiss in the semi-finals here. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Mary Pierce are drawn to meet in the fourth round. In the opening round, the Spaniard plays Britain's Clare Wood, and Pierce must account for Belgium's Dominique Van Roost, who made such a good impression at the Australian Open.

Jana Novotna, the No 3 seed, appears nicely placed to make progress in Monica Seles's half. Seles, seeded to play Hingis in the final, has an opening match against Australia's Rachel McQuillan.

As to the other teenagers, Anna Kournikova meets Chanda Rubin, the marathon woman, and Venus Williams is a possible third-round opponent for Amanda Coetzer, who capitalised on Steffi Graf's errors in Paris.