Tennis: Rusedski back for the Stella

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GREG RUSEDKSI managed not to wince yesterday as he and Tim Henman confirmed that they would lead the British challenge at the pounds 470,000 Stella Artois Championships at Queen's Club, London, from 7 to 13 June.

The Stella tournament has painful memories for Rusedski. His Wimbledon prospects were wrecked at Queen's last year when he injured his left ankle in a fall during a third-round match against Laurence Tieleman, an Italian qualifier, only 10 days before the Championships at the All England Club were due to start.

Rusedski's attempt to compete at Wimbledon, where he was the No 4 seed, ended with his retirement during a first-round match against Mark Draper, of Australia. This was followed by a split with his coach, Tony Pickard, who was angered by Rusedski's secretive behaviour with regard to treatment in the days prior to Wimbledon. Rusedski was later able to joke about the "two months' holiday" he had as a result of the injury, but it was one of the most disappointing episodes of the 25-year-old's career.

Boris Becker, who withdrew from a tournament in Tokyo yesterday after losing to Andre Agassi in Monday's rain-delayed Salem Open final in Hong Kong, has expressed a desire to use the Stella Artois event as a springboard for a possible last fling at Wimbledon. In 1985, Becker won at Queen's and then became Wimbledon's youngest men's singles champion, aged 17, the first of the German's three titles at the All England Club. Currently ranked No 62 in the world, Becker is a part-time player on the ATP Tour.

Pete Sampras, the five-times Wimbledon champion, has asked the promoters of the Stella tournament to reserve a wild card for him, as he did last year.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the Australian Open champion, is listed among the early entries for the 56-draw Stella singles title, along with Goran Ivanisevic, a three-times Wimbledon finalist, and previous Queen's winners Todd Martin, Mark Philippoussis and Scott Draper. Michael Chang and Thomas Enqvist are also in the list.

The Spaniard Alex Corretja tumbled out of the Barcelona Open yesterday, losing 7-6, 6-3 in the second round to Morocco's Younes El Aynaoui.

Last season's French Open finalist made a string of unforced errors to be broken twice in the first set. He broke back each time but the Moroccan, more mobile around the court, won the set, comfortably on the tie-break.

The Spaniard continued to struggle in the second set, particularly on his backhand. He was broken in the fourth game, flashing an attempted pass wide on break point.

The tall Moroccan pressed home his advantage, serving out his remaining games.

Corretja's compatriot, Albert Costa, winner in Estoril last week, underlined his potential with a smooth 6-3, 6-2 first-round win over Italy's Andrea Gaudenzi.

In Tokyo yesterday, Michael Chang struggled to squeeze out a three-set victory over the unheralded Australian Michael Hill in a windswept first- round match in the Japan Open.