Tennis: Rusedski breeze as big guns fall

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The Independent Online
ON A day when both the world No 1, Pete Sampras, and world No 2, Pat Rafter, were beaten, Greg Rusedski breezed past the German Axel Pretzsch yesterday to join Tim Henman in the second round of the Swiss Indoor Championships in Basle. Rusedski, the world No 14 and seventh seed, defeated Pretzsch 6-2, 6-2 and now plays another German qualifier, David Prinosil.

Rusedski needed only 52 minutes to beat Pretzsch, and in one game produced three consecutive aces. "I was really pleased with the way I played," said Rusedski. "Everything is coming together nicely.

"I like it here. I have a record of nine wins and only one loss. It's one of the most spectacular draws there's been here in a long time with Sampras, Agassi and Rafter."

That proved to be a little ironic given that Sampras and Rafter were then beaten within hours of each other.

Sampras, in action for the first time since last month's US Open, showed signs of not yet being match tight, losing a tense 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 battle with South Africa's Wayne Ferreira.

"I just like the way he plays," Ferreira said. "He serves well but I made him play more returns and when you make him do that he tends to go after more."

Rafter, also playing his first tournament since successfully defending his US Open title, was brushed aside 7-6, 7-5 by the Czech Republic's Daniel Vacek, ranked 44 in the world.

The first round of the $1m (pounds 600,000) Swiss tournament has proved a graveyard for this year's Grand Slam winners with Rafter, Sampras and the Australian Open champion, Petr Korda, who lost to the German Nicolas Kiefer on Tuesday, all making early exits.

Sampras's departure ranks as the most surprising, however, the American having arrived in Switzerland well rested and determined to solidify his position on top of the world rankings.

But Sampras admitted after the match that the loss has seriously dented his attempt to become the first player to finish as world No 1 for six consecutive years.

"The loss doesn't help... all I can do now is go home and try and regroup," said Sampras, who has won more indoor titles than any other player with the exception of Boris Becker.

Henman, the sixth seed, beat Australian Jason Stoltenberg in three sets in his opening match on Tuesday and now faces the Moroccan Hicham Arazi.

David Lloyd, Britain's Davis Cup captain, is astounded that his team are not among the eight seeded nations in the World Group of the Davis Cup next year.

The draw for the first round is to be made in London today, and though Britain have Henman and Rusedski in the world's top 14, they have been ignored for a seeding place.

"Not to seed us is the most incredible decision I have ever heard," Lloyd said. "It puts us in a very serious position because it means we have to be drawn against one of the seeds. We could play Spain away and we could be the two best nat-ions in the competition."

Steffi Graf, who underwent surgery on a hand three weeks ago, is to return at next month's WTA Philadelphia tournament.