Tennis: Harmony ahead of Davis Cup

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The Independent Online
By John Roberts in Key Biscayne, Florida

LITTLE more than three years ago British tennis barely had soldiers. Recently we found ourselves in the throes of a minor civil war, Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman having decided that two's a crowd. Sensibly, a truce has been declared for the duration of Davis Cup matches.

"We haven't been on speaking terms, you know that," Henman said on the eve of his third-round contest against the Spaniard, Carlos Moya, at the Lipton Championships here, "but we've got to be professional about it and make sure we operate as a team. When it comes to representing your country, that comes before family feuds. Things were getting out of hand for no real reason, but everything is getting better now."

That is encouraging for David Lloyd, Britain's Davis Cup captain, as he prepares for the tie against Ukraine in Newcastle from 3 to 5 April, particularly since Rusedski and Henman are due to team-up for the doubles as well as contesting the singles. Victory would put Britain in a play- off for the 16-strong World Group in September.

Rusedski also expressed solidarity in the national interest. "It is the captain's choice to pick who he wants for the doubles team and who he thinks is the best, and I don't think there should be any problem," the British No 1 said before his third-round match against Switzerland's Marc Rosset. "I think we are trying to do well for Britain and we are trying to get us back into the World Group," Rusedski added. "If that means we have to play doubles, then we play doubles."

Lloyd has spoken to both players, emphasising that it is not necessary to be bosom buddies in order to form a successful unit, although the current unease between Rusedski and Henman was brought to a head by their differences over a team competition.

Henman decided not to participate in the World Team Cup in Dusseldorf the week before the French Open in May without first consulting Rusedski. The pair's ATP Tour rankings had qualified them for this rare opportunity to represent Britain in an event which offers a series of matches on clay courts.

"I'm not playing in the World Team Cup because I'm playing for five weeks before," Henman said, "and, at the end of the day, it's an exhibition with no ranking points. The Davis Cup is a priority. It's a must that we get back in the World Group."

Monica Seles, who is competing in her first tournament for two months, said she only entered the Lipton because the event is not too far from her seriously ill father, Karolj. "I really believe that if I commit to tennis fully I can have a good 10 years," Seles said. "I'm not going to have my dad nearly that long. He has done everything for me, so I just really wanted to spend these last few months with him."

Karolj Seles coached his daughter from childhood to the top of the women's game. "I talked to my dad about it, which has helped me tremendously, that he knows how I feel. So from a week ago I kind of know what my path is. Even though I don't have much of a chance to to do great things here, I know, in the future, if I do certain things, physically, tennis-wise and mentally, I can get that back."

Martina Hingis, the world No 1, advanced to the fourth round with a 6- 0, 6-0 whitewash of the South African, Joannette Kruger. Hingis has only dropped one game so far, against the American Chanda Rubin.