Tennis: Rusedski cashes in on service charge

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THE PRIZE-MONEY at the Compaq Grand Slam Cup has been boggling minds for the past 10 years, but Yevgeny Kafelnikov may have difficulty getting his head together for reasons other than the cash when he plays Britain's Greg Rusedski in the quarter-finals tomorrow. The Russian has flown 10,000 miles from Brisbane, with a touch of jet lag to go with the disappointment of last weekend's Davis Cup defeat by Australia.

Rusedski, who played his part in Britain's victory against South Africa in Birmingham, is guaranteed $175,000 of the $6.7m (pounds 4.2m) kitty after defeating the Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, in the first round yesterday. That would rise to $325,000 with a win against Kafelnikov, the Australian Open champion.

Although troubled by a foot injury since the French Open in June and hampered by a groin strain during the Davis Cup, Rusedski showed little sign of any problems yesterday. He served 10 aces, at speeds of up to 140 mph, and frequently hit groundstrokes that were the envy of an opponent who specialises in the shot.

Rusedski's play in the opening set was almost flawless. He conceded only three points on his serve, and one of those was a double-fault. Kuerten seemed bemused for most of the 22 minutes it took Rusedski to win the set.

Kuerten saved a break- point at the start of the second set, and suddenly his game revived. Rusedski, by contrast, began to lose consistency on his first serve. In the sixth game, he produced one of those 140mph missiles at 15-30, but then double-faulted twice to give Kuerten a 4-2 lead.

The Brazilian deservedly took the set, and British observers began to wonder if Rusedski was about to wilt, but the British No 1 prevailed, breaking for 5-3 after Kuerten double-faulted and then missed a forehand, and served out the match after 80 minutes - earning pounds 1,325 per minute. "That's not a bad day's work," Rusedski said. "I've not served so well in a long while, and I was pleased with every aspect of my game. The groin is fine so I feel good in all respects."

"Life doesn't last long," Serena Williams mused, having crammed plenty of travel into the 16 days between receiving $750,000 for winning the United States Open singles title in New York and guaranteeing herself at least $300,000 by defeating Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, 6-3, 6-1, on her debut in the Grand Slam Cup.

Along with her older sister Venus, who scooped the $800,000 first prize in Munich last year, Serena left Flushing Meadows to be greeted by hurricane conditions back home in Florida before setting off for Palo Alto, California, where Serena caught her breath watching Venus help the United States win the Fed Cup final against Russia.

After saying that her life had not changed since winning one of the four majors, however, Serena paused and added: "Actually, I missed my flight coming over here. I was thinking, `Hey, will they hold the plane for the US Open champ?'"

Sunday marked her 18th birthday, which may have triggered yesterday's philosophical mode. "Before you know it, my career is going to be over," she said. "I'll think, `Hey, if I could have done something a little quicker.' Now I don't have to think that way."

Serena's career is likely to run and run if her matches are anything like yesterday's brief encounter with Sanchez-Vicario. It was over in only 53 minutes, Williams having made the fewer mistakes. The American took the first four games in only 11 minutes. "It's not like I really won those games," Williams said. "She was making a lot of errors."

The habit was contagious. Williams was broken in the next game, was then unable to convert either of two break-points for 5-2 and then lost her serve for 4-3. The Spaniard double-faulted in the next game to extend the sequence of breaks to five in eight matches, and Williams served out the set after 30 minutes.

Williams proceeded to win the first four games of the second set, but this time gave her opponent little respite.