Tennis: Rusedski delighted to pass tough test

GREG RUSEDSKI could not have asked for a more testing return to action at the RCA Championships in Indianapolis following his two-month lay-off with an ankle injury.

Rusedski, with his ankle strapped, produced an outstanding effort on Wednesday for a 7-6, 6-3 win over Magnus Larsson, who had gone close to beating the Wimbledon champion, Pete Sampras, in Cincinnati last weekend.

In a battle of big servers, Rusedski survived a break point in the fifth game and then began to return better against the Larsson delivery. However, for a while Rusedski's lack of match practice began to hinder him as he failed to convert six break points of his own.

It required two mini-breaks in the tie-break, which he won 7-2, before he sneaked the first set. That settled Rusedski's serve into a better rhythm, and two aces in his first service game of the second set were followed by three in his second and three more in his third, as he rifled down 14 in all during the 69-minute contest.

A timely break in the fifth game of the second set then gave him a hold on the match which he wrapped up with another break at the end.

"I was very pleased with the win," Rusedski said with understandable pleasure. "My ankle was very solid and I think I moved well. I didn't start serving as well as I liked, but it came along really nice.

"Fortunately I played a good tie-breaker and when I got a break in the second set I started to cruise a bit. Then I started to get my pop. It's just a question of getting the big points back and improving the movement here and there."

Tim Henman continued to make progress as he chased a place in the world top five at the Pilot Penn International in New Haven, Connecticut, by defeating the Italian left-hander Vincento Santopadre 6-2, 6-3 in less than an hour in his opening round.

Henman, the British No 2, knew he should win with something to spare against a man ranked at No 132 in the world. He has been playing well in recent weeks, but his focus has sometimes been suspect against opponents he should beat easily. "It's a question of getting switched on and ready to go," said Henman. "Sometimes when you are over-confident you don't do that so well and it's an area I have been working on."