Tennis: Rusedski continues his march

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The Independent Online
GREG RUSEDSKI'S superb run continued yesterday when he powered into the third round of the Stockholm Open at the expense of the American, Vince Spadea.

The British No 2, still on a high from his victory over Pete Sampras in the final of the Paris Indoor Open, swept aside Spadea 6-1, 6-4. The win keeps alive Rusedski's hopes of qualifying for the lucrative end-of- season finale ATP Tour World Championship in Hanover.

Rusedski, broken by Spadea for the first time in the tournament, said: "I'm just taking one step at a time. I have a difficult opponent in the quarter-finals."

Meeting a Canadian in the quarters does not mean Rusedski will be extra- motivated. "It won't be different than any other match," he said. "I played Daniel at Wimbledon in our last meeting and I won in straight sets. It's just going to be another match out there really. I've known him since I was young and we both played a few times in juniors as well. It's going to be a good match."

The Briton, the world's top indoor player this year with 31 victories, was referring to Daniel Nestor, his quarter-final opponent. Nestor, ranked only 115th in the world, beat the French sixth-seed, Cedric Pioline, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, in his second-round match yesterday.

Spadea broke Rusedski at 3-3 in the second set when he hit a forehand volley wide. Spadea had a 40-15 advantage in the next game, but Rusedski broke him back to lead 4-3 and then held his serve the rest of the way to close out the match in just over an hour, after the American had saved four match points in the last game.

Britain's No 1 player, Tim Henman, will face the Swede Magnus Gustafsson in the quarter-finals.

Pete Sampras could be knocked off the top of the world rankings just days before he embarks on the final leg of his attempt to rewrite tennis history. Sampras is attempting to finish the year at No 1 for an unprecedented sixth successive time. But a first-round defeat in Stockholm on Wednesday for the American has opened the door for Chile's Marcelo Rios to wreck his dream.

If the South American reaches the final of the Chevrolet Cup in Santiago, he will enter the season-ending world championships in Hanover on 24 November as the No 1.

Sampras, who won the Hanover title in style last year, will also have a lot of points to defend in Germany handing Rios an even better chance of pipping him by the end of the week.

He is still confident he can win in Hanover, eclipsing Jimmy Connors's 1974-78 record of finishing five years straight as No 1. "Hopefully I will play some good tennis there," he said.

Venus Williams has withdrawn from next week's Chase Championships because of a knee injury. The 18-year-old American, who had qualified to make her a debut at the 16-strong WTA Tour finale at Madison Square Garden, New York, has been troubled by her left knee for most of the year.

Williams' absence has improved Steffi Graf's chances of playing in the Chase. The former world No 1, who returned from wrist surgery to win last week's tournament in Leipzig, was ranked No 17 at the start of this week's Advanta Championship in Philadelphia.

Going into yesterday's matches, a loss by Japan's Ai Sugiyama to Monica Seles or a win by Graf against the Russian Elena Likhovtseva in the second round would enable Graf to qualify, along with Romania's Irina Spirlea.

Graf's qualification would see eight current or former champions in the field for the first time - Graf, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Jana Novotna, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Seles, Mary Pierce, and Conchita Martinez.