Tennis: Rusedski reels in Kuerten

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The Independent Online
With British tennis you never count your chickens but there is an increasing chance a home player will win the Nottingham Open this week. Last night Greg Rusedski joined Tim Henman in the second round, clearing away the third seed in the process.

As that seed was Gustavo Kuerten, whose last act was to win the French Open, it was no mean feat. True, the 20-year-old Brazilian was playing his first match on grass but a 6-1, 7-5 victory should not be held against anyone, never mind the world No 12. His removal, on top of Carlos Moya and Marcelo Rios' defeats on the first day, means Henman is the top surviving seed.

Rusedski is not seeded here but that does not mean he is not dangerous. His serve is a potent weapon on any surface but on grass it can be almost unplayable, and the first set was taken in 18 minutes: knock-ups seem longer than that.

Kuerten is not one of those clay ornaments who take one look at the grass and crack, however, and he steadily improved. "He's a tremendous player," Rusedski said, "who has just got to get a feel for the surface. In the second set he did really well for someone who likes to stay at the back."

At 5-4 up Kuerten had two second-set points and a remarkable turnaround was looming until Rusedski found the range with his booming ground strokes and finished the match in 51 minutes.

Martin Lee was also involved in a quick match - 38 minutes - but even though he was crushed 6-1, 6-1 by Slovakia's Karol Kucera he was not dismayed. "Disappointed? Not at all," he said. "I had to beat Jerome Golmard, who is 98 in the world, to qualify to play here so I'm feeling pretty content."

Lee, 19, admitted to also feeling tired after Queen's last week, where he reached the third round before being swatted by Goran Ivanisevic, and it showed. He won only 22 points in total and his serve came in for rough treatment from Kucera, who is ranked 64th in the world.

Lee took his first service game to 30 but had to wait for another 10 games for another similar success. The end came quickly, Kucera breaking him for a fifth time to 15.

The remedy, Lee believes, is more muscle. "I took two weeks in the gym before Queen's," he said, "and I really felt the benefit. I need to work on my strength. Sometimes it's hard for me to stay with the power on court.

"I don't set myself goals because I could end up disappointed if I don't achieve them. I'm just looking to improve week by week." Having risen 118 places in seven days to 382 in the world, he was justifiably satisfied.

Which is not how you would describe Chris Wilkinson, who surrendered 7-6, 6-4 to Marc-Kevin Goellner. "His service game seemed to last 10 seconds," the British No 3 said, "while mine seemed to last 10 minutes." One reason for that was the accuracy of Goellner's service, which yielded three aces in the first game and 20 in total.