Tennis: Grandslam Cup - Rusedski finds the aces to grab a fistful of dollars

Greg Rusedski marked his debut at the $6m Compaq Grand Slam Cup yesterday with a first-round victory that will add at least $250,000 to prize-money fast approaching $1m for the year. John Roberts sees Britain's sharpshooter start fast in Munich.
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The Independent Online
The cost of the new apartment Greg Rusedski has his eyes on in London was more than covered by the British No 1's win against Australia's Todd Woodbridge in the opening round of the Compaq Grand Slam Cup here last night.

Guaranteed $250,000 as a quarter-finalist, win or lose tomorrow against Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the world No 4, Rusedski's bank balance is almost as high as his confidence. Moreover, he is rapidly developing into a man for all surfaces.

A finalist at the United States Open on the medium-paced concrete courts of New York, Rusedski has since raised his ranking to No 10 in the world by reaching the semi- finals on the slow clay of Bournemouth and cashed in on the fast indoor carpet at Munich's Olympic Hall.

Such progress demands a degree of luck along with skill and hard work. It was Rusedski's good fortune here that his opponent was feeling the effects of travelling to Bavaria directly after last weekend's Davis Cup semi-final between the United States and Australia in Washington.

"I think the time zone was on my side," Rusedski said after recovering from a disappointing start to win, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 after an hour and 50 minutes.

The Australian questioned the fairness of the situation. "You can't prepare for getting off a plane and having two hits on a court and playing a match. You just can't do that," he said. "I was actually interested why, in particular, myself, Mark [Woodforde) and [Marcelo] Rios, who came from different continents, had to play today. There's a match tomorrow involving guys who had Davis Cup [ties] to play in Europe."

Woodbridge, who won Saturday's Davis Cup doubles rubber partnering Mark Woodforde against Pete Sampras and Todd Martin, broke Rusedski in his first two service games and led 4-0 before the Briton could gather himself. Standing a yard behind the baseline, Woodbridge was returning Rusedski's missiles with comparative ease at this stage.

Rusedski broke back for 2-4 and salvaged some self belief by saving three break points at 3-5 before his opponent served out the first set after 38 minutes.

If Woodbridge had succeeded in parrying Rusedski thus far, his own serve was beginning to cause ominous problems for the Australian. By the end of the match he had double-faulted 14 times. Whether this was a consequence of jet-lag, let-jag or simply trying too hard is difficult to judge. But it was costly.

Midway through the second set, Woodbridge was setting off the electronic service-line monitor with such regularity that he might have been composing a tune. Rusedski, meantime, was mounting up the aces to a total of 20.

Chipping and charging to put Woodbridge's serve under pressure, Rusedski levelled the match and then created three opportunities to break at the start of the final set. Woodbridge showed signs of losing his composure, hitting the side of his shoes with his racket. But he managed to hold serve, at which point doubts surfaced concerning Rusedski's prospects.

The Briton responded by saving three break points at 3-4, breaking for 6-5 and recovering from 0-30 to hold for the match.

Kafelnikov defeated Sergi Bruguera 6-4, 6-3. The Spaniard was unable to take advantage of a break point after Kafelnikov double-faulted when serving for the opening set at 5-4, and was subsequently punished by three consecutive drives from the Russian's forehand.

Kafelnikov broke the Spaniard to love in the opening game of the second set, only to double-fault on a game point for 2-0. Bruguera broke back, luring Kafelnikov into overhitting a backhand. The Spaniard could not make further progress, however, losing his serve in the third game after netting a backhand.

Bruguera showed his frustration by whacking his chair with his racket during the change-over. Kafelnikov made better use of his racket, driving a forehand across the court to convert his second match point with Bruguera serving at 5-3.

"I like the indoor surface, because my game is very simple," Kafelnikov said. "I rely on my groundstrokes and a little bit on my serve. There were a couple of stages in the match, especially in the second set, where I thought things might change. But at those crucial stages I was able to play the right shot at the right time. That's why it was a pretty comfortable win for me."

Woodforde, substituting for the injured Richard Krajicek, made an encouraging start against Rios, winning a tie-break, 7-2. The Chilean steadied his game and wore down his fellow left-hander to win 6-7, 6-3, 6-1.

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