Tennis: Richardson savours a rare high

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ANDREW RICHARDSON, the British No 3, defeated Marc Rosset, the Swiss 1992 Olympic champion, yesterday, which is not a tall story even though both players stand 6ft 7in. The pity of it was that Rosset retired, complaining of a viral infection, when trailing, 6-3, 2-1.

It is often said that you can only beat the player in front of you. And if the player in front of you walks off the court? Tough. That summarises Richardson's attitude after advancing to the second round of the Guardian Direct Cup in Battersea Park. "I think professional tennis is all about taking your opportunities," he said. "Today Rosset obviously wasn't 100 per cent, but I was very pleased with the way I played.''

The 23-year-old wild card from Peterborough's main concern was whether he would be facing Greg Rusedski, the British No 1, world No 5 and a fellow left-hander, or Germany's Marc-Kevin Goellner in his next match today. Richardson lost to Rusedski in the third round at Wimbledon last summer. Rosset, ranked No 28, arrived here after losing to Rusedski in Sunday's final of the European Community Championship.

Richardson needed five set points to secure the opening set after Rosset had double-faulted to lose his serve for 3-5. After being broken in the third game of the second set, the Swiss informed the umpire that he would have to default.

It was Richardson's sixth win on the ATP Tour. A close friend and contemporary of Tim Henman, his progress has been pedestrian by comparison, his world ranking rising from No 462 in 1995 to No 326 in 1996 and No 143 at the end of last year.

You may have heard that the ATP Tour intends to experiment with coaches on the court, a la Davis Cup ties, but there is no suggestion that the gurus are going to be allowed to play the shots. When the game plan is talked through and the motivating done, the players, as always, will be the ones with the rackets doing the business, or not.

Henman is alert to the situation, which is why he was keen to put the role of his coach, David Felgate, in perspective after ending a run of five consecutive defeats with a rousing 6-7, 7-6, 7-5 victory against Richard Krajicek, the 1996 Wimbledon champion, in the first round on Tuesday night.

"He's very important to my learning process," Henman said, "but last night was not all to do with him, just as when I've been losing it was not all to do with him. That's why I think some of the criticism has been totally out of order. It was me who had to win the match last night, and it was me who was playing like an idiot in previous weeks.

"In Melbourne and Split I just wasn't going for my serve, and I was struggling. If I'd lost last night, what could I have said.? It just shows what it can turn on.

"The crowd last night helped me in a similar way as they did at Wimbledon. I was pretty tired at the end, and it definitely put pressure on Richard when the crowd sensed I had an opportunity. I felt a bit bad for Richard. He's a very good guy, and the two matches I've played him in were real heartbreakers.''

Henman's opponent tonight is Rainer Schuttler, a German qualifier ranked No 118 in the world, who embarrassed the Briton in Split. "I knew I had bottomed out after Split," Henman said. "I improved against [Boris] Becker [in Dubai], and I improved against [Magnus] Norman [in Antwerp], and I knew I was hitting the ball well in practice. I have got the opportunity to put the record straight after Split.''