Tennis: Henman leaves Rusedski to fly flag

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The Independent Online
For the second time this year the possibility of a first all-British men's final since tennis went open in 1968 fell at the final hurdle, but that will hardly worry Greg Rusedski, who today contests his fifth final of the year at the Swiss Indoors in Basle. Just as at Nottingham in June, Rusedski made it to the final while his friendly rival Tim Henman missed out.

Rusedski hit another 19 aces in his 6-7 6-3 7-5 victory over Petr Korda, and in today's final he faces Mark Philippoussis, who earlier beat Henman 7-6 6-4. Despite playing 19 matches in the last 40 days - and losing just three of them, all to players in the world's top five - the British No 1 shows no signs of tiredness.

"Tiredness is just a mental thing," he said last night, "and Tony [Pickard, his new coach] is doing a good job getting me prepared mentally so I'm not really feeling it at the moment."

So far the relationship has been strictly telephonic - "I've only lost once in the two weeks we've been together and that was against Sampras" Rusedski said, "so the phone's working quite well!"

By the time he meets Pickard in Vienna tomorrow, Rusedski is likely to have improved on his record as the highest ranked British player.

Win or lose today, calculations suggest he will be seventh when the new list is published, and his chances of qualifying for the elite eight-man year-ending ATP tour world championship in Hanover in November are now realistic.

For the third time this week he had to go to three sets. He admitted to getting angry after letting the first set tie-break slip away - he had an easy forehand to put away at 5-5 which he put into the sidelines, and Korda took the tie-break 7-5.

A break in the third game of the second set brought the 24-year-old from London back into the match and at 5-1 Korda looked out of it, but another loose game meant Rusedski dropped serve and had to rely on his second break to level the match.

When Korda fought his way back from 0-40 in the sixth game of the decider to level at 3-3, Rusedski's best chance might have disappeared. But with the Czech serving for the second time to stay in the match, Rusedski connected with a couple of returns and moved into the final on his third match point.

Though he didn't know it at the time, the three break points Henman missed in the third game of his match against Philippoussis were the one chance he had of making a fist of it.

The Australian made a sleepy start, but after the first half-dozen games he showed that he too is more than just a big server. A delightful backhand drop volley took Henman's serve on the third point of the tie- break, after which he was never behind.

After taking the tie-break 7-2, he broke in the third game of the second set and never gave the British No 2 a chance of breaking back.

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