Tennis: Rusedski injured in victory

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GREG RUSEDSKI braved injury to move a step nearer the ATP World Championship in Hanover later this month.

The British No 2 hurt a muscle in his back during a hard-fought 7-6, 1-6, 6-3 victory over the Canadian Daniel Nestor in the quarter-finals of the Stockholm Open. But Rusedski, who needs to reach Sunday's final to be assured of a place in the World Championship, says he is ready to play through the pain barrier in tomorrow's semi-final to make sure he books his berth at Hanover.

The world No 11 faces either Thomas Johansson or Jason Stoltenberg in the last four and could meet the British No 1, Tim Henman, who takes on Magnus Gustafsson tonight, in the final.

Rusedski said he felt a twinge of pain on his right side in today's first set. He took some anti-inflammatory pills on court following the third game of the second set. "It got tight and I felt it pull," said Rusedski. "The trainer said it was just over-use. He doesn't feel there is anything that can be damaged. It should be fine in a few days."

Rusedski got into trouble in the fifth game when he had to save four break-points before escaping for a 3-2 lead after Nestor sent a return long. But Nestor first fought back to force a tie-break - only to be dominated easily by Rusedski - then broke early to take a 2-0 lead and stretch that margin to 5-1 with another break. He won the last 10 points in a row to level the match at a set each. The third set turned on a sixth game that lasted for more than 10 minutes.

Nestor, like Rusedski a left-hander, wasted a 40-0 lead, then had to save four break-points against him before Rusedski finally grabbed a 4- 2 lead as his opponent netted a volley. Rusedski then served out his next two games for the win.

"I knew what to expect," Rusedski said. "It was like playing myself. But I think I move better than him and I'm more intense in some situations."

Rusedski said the sixth game of the final set was important. "I finally got a ball that I could chip low enough down the line," said the Briton. "It was satisfying, that was a key game and match could have gone either way.

"It's frustrating the way Daniel plays. It's always tough for a leftie to play another leftie. You have to give him a lot of respect on an indoor court. I managed to get the only break in the third set and got the win."

If Henman reaches the semi-finals he will have booked one of the last two places for Hanover.

Todd Martin stopped Takao Suzuki's run in the Stockholm Open earlier yesterday, beating the Japanese qualifier 6-3, 6-4 in the first quarter- final.

Martin broke Suzuki twice in game seven and nine to win the first set. After trading service breaks early in the second set, Martin broke Suzuki again in the last game. Suzuki fell behind 15-40 after two superb crosscourt returns by Martin. The American clinched the match with a perfect lob.

"The key point of the game came at 15 all in the last game, when I hit a passing shot for a winner," Martin said. "That gave me a boost and took the wind out of him."

"I feel I'm playing great, better than a few years ago. I just hope it continues for the rest of the week and that it doesn't vanish come 1999."

Martin, who reached the 1996 final here but lost to Thomas Enqvist, will play the winner between Tim Henman and Magnus Gustafsson.