Tennis: Goldstein's dramatic introduction

A little-known American with some famous friends has overcome Greg Rusedski.
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The Independent Online
"SO WHO'S Paul Goldstein?" he was asked at a press conference. "Paul Goldstein's from Rockville, Maryland. He has two of the most supportive parents in the world, two wonderful brothers and he's feeling pretty good right now," he shot back.

Goldstein has hung out with Tiger Woods, counts Chelsea Clinton as a friend, quotes John McEnroe and beat Greg Rusedski at the Australian Open yesterday.

"He's been playing for five or six months on the professional tour and, yes, he's feeling pretty good right now," Goldstein said of himself after scheming, running and diving his way to a 6-4, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 victory over the Briton in their second-round match.

Goldstein, 22, who has a degree in human biology from Stanford University, said he had delayed his entrance to the tennis tour until he felt mature enough.

He is from Rockville, Maryland, and was a school-mate of the president's daughter, who cheered him on at a tournament in Washington last July.

At Stanford, McEnroe's alma mater, he helped its tennis team to four consecutive NCAA titles. When Goldstein was asked to explain how some decent results in Challengers and an unspectacular college career can lead a man to beat a top-10 player in only his 10th tour-level match, he merely said: "Your guess is as good as mine."

What Goldstein achieved by staying in school instead of taking his light frame on to the tour as a teen was to prepare himself away from the spotlight.

"My body still has a lot of maturing to do," Goldstein said. "And at the point of 18, 19, 20 I just don't think I was ready for the rigours of the tour, either physically or mentally."

He was forced to come through qualifying to make the main draw at the Australian Open, his first Grand Slam experience outside of three brief trips to Flushing Meadows. Last year, he took a set off Pete Sampras, the world No 1, in the second round of the US Open.

At 5ft 10in and 11st 1lb, Goldstein is a junior middleweight to the 6ft 4in, 13st 8lb heavyweight Rusedski. But, when it came to serve, it was a contest between a flyweight and a heavyweight.

While Rusedski kept pounding serves of around 128 mph, Goldstein replied with modest efforts peaking with a best of 109 mph. So the American had to use his Stanford brain instead of his less-than-powerful arms. "I kind of went in with the approach that a made return was a good return," he said. "He's got a world-class serve, one of the top two or three in the game. I just relied on my counter punching and scrambling on the return games."

Without power, Goldstein needed accuracy on his serve. He spent a lot of time tumbling around as Rusedski attacked him, but seemed to enjoy it.

"That Rebound Ace [the playing surface] has a nice little cushion and I was thinking I might have some bloody marks, but after the first one it didn't hurt too bad."

Goldstein said he has a long way to go before he has the earning power of a Woods or the game of a McEnroe. It's a good start to a career, but it's also something more. "Tennis is a fun game," he told reporters. "You guys all should play."