Tennis: Rusedski leaves Chang stranded

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The British No 2 Greg Rusedski produced 15 aces on the way to upsetting the second seed Michael Chang 7-6 6-4 yesterday and move into a semi-final date with Andre Agassi at the Sybase Open here in California.

Agassi, gaining momentum with every match in his first tournament back on the tour since being whistled out of the ATP Championships in Hanover last November, steamrolled the Australian qualifier Grant Doyle, 6-2 6- 1. The top seed Pete Sampras also advanced to today's semi-finals with a quick 6-2 6-3 victory over fellow American Chris Woodruff. Sampras will face his friend Todd Martin, who beat the sixth seed Richey Reneberg 6- 1 6-4.

Rusedski, who has served 43 aces in three matches here, had Chang fully stretched as his heavy-kick serves bounced over the diminutive American's head. "I gave up too many points on his second serve," said Chang, who had 6-1 record against the 23-year-old Rusedski on entering the match. "I should have stepped in a little bit more. That's normally where I hurt him the most."

In their seven prior meetings, the two had played seven tie-breaks, with Chang winning five of them. But yesterday it was Rusedski who took charge. Down 3-4 in the tie-break, the left-hander ran to the net on four successive occasions, driving three volley winners and forcing Chang to go for too much on a return of serve.

While Rusedski is known as a one-weapon player with his rocket serves, he says that he is growing more versatile. "I'm a much more complete player than last year," said Rusedski, who was beaten in three sets by Goran Ivanisevic in the final of the Croatian Indoor tournament in Zagreb a fortnight ago. "I'm returning better, volleying better and, most important, my mental game is better.

"I'm not letting things get to me. That's the difference between the guys at the top like Chang and Sampras and the guys ranked between No 50 and 100 - they keep on an even keel."

The 39th-ranked player Rusedski faced three break points in the second set and responded with two aces and a service winner. "It's a matter of focusing on every point," Rusedski said. Agassi and Rusedski have not met for three years, with Agassi holding a 3-0 advantage.

In beating Woodruff, Sampras extended his winning streak against American players. Sampras, the 1997 Australian Open champion, has won 21 matches in a row against his compatriots. His last reverse was to Chang in the 1995 ATP Championships.

Sampras has decided he will not play in the Davis Cup when the United States meet Holland in a second-round tie in California in April. The world No 1 said yesterday that playing the tie would mean seven successive weeks of tennis for him and that could hamper his preparations for the French Open.