Tennis: Rusedski overwhelms his old friend

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The Independent Online
Greg Rusedski joined Tim Henman in the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open last night. Rusedski defeated Karim Alami, of Morocco, in straight sets on a cool but calm evening. John Roberts reports from Doha.

They won the Wimbledon junior doubles title together seven years ago, but time has widened a gap in power between Greg Rusedski and Karim Alami. It was on the centre court at the Khalifah Tennis Complex here in 1994 that the Moroccan embarrassed an unprepared Pete Sampras in the first round of the Qatar Open, but Rusedski was too strong for his old friend last night.

The Canadian-born Briton, seeded No 1 in the absence of the injured Yevgeny Kafelnikov, secured his place in the quarter-finals with a 6-2, 7-5 victory and now plays the Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, ranked No 29 in the world, who beat Germany's Martin Sinner 6-3, 6-4.

Rusedski opened with an ace and then lost his serve, mis- hitting a forehand over the baseline and missing with a backhand volley. Alami produced a winning serve on the first point of the second game, only to lapse into errors under pressure from Rusedski's serves. The Briton was able to recover the break with a backhand drive.

From that point, Rusedski took control of the opening set. Although unable to convert either of two break points in the fourth game, finding the net with a forehand volley and a backhand drive, he punished Alami sorely in the sixth game, breaking to love.

Rusedski also won the next four points, the confidence of his shots unnerving Alami, who lost his serve again in the eighth game. The Moroccan double- faulted to present the set point at 30-40 and then underplayed a backhand drop shot, which floated into the net.

A set to the good after only 28 minutes, Rusedski lapsed in the opening game of the second set to allow his opponent a break point, created with a forehand drive down the line. Rusedski erased it with a smash.

Alami had treatment to a leg injury during the changeover at 4-3, but continued to match Rusedski point for point until the 12th game. The Moroccan seemed perplexed when the umpire called 30-30, querying whether he meant 40-15. But his shot was clearly long. Rusedski then reached match point with a backhand down the line, the net cord helping another backhand secure his place in the last eight.

Goran Ivanisevic's running feud with the Croatian president, Franjo Tudjman, may reach a new pitch - a football pitch. The reason why Ivanisevic is so keen to turn out for his home-town team, Hajduk Split, against Croatia Zagreb next month goes deeper than a boyhood dream. Tudjman is the Zagreb club's patron.

Tudjman's sporting interests also extend to tennis, and he has expressed opposition to the ATP Tour event in Zagreb being moved to Split. The row led to Ivanisevic's refusal to play in Croatia's Davis Cup tie against Finland. He plans to play in the Dubai Open the same week and, if he loses before the semi-finals on 14 February, to turn out for the last 10 minutes for Hajduk Split.

If Ivanisevic inspires as much emotion on the football pitch as he does on the tennis court, there could be a few sore heads. Such was the tension generated by his epic second-round victory on Wednesday over Switzerland's Marc Rosset, who lost after double-faulting four times when serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set, that a linesman had to run for cover.

A middle-aged Swiss spectator decided to take his frustration out on the judge by attacking him with a flag. "No action will be taken," the tournament director, Ayman Azmy, said. "It's not such a big deal. The guy was carrying a Swiss flag and was a little bit upset with a call. It was funny a little bit. He was looking for Marc Rosset to win, but nobody can do everything.

"What happened was outside the court and nothing to do with the play. If the guy likes to sue him, he can sue him. It's not a big issue. It has never happened to us here before." Where Ivanisevic is concerned, there is a first time for everything.