Tennis: Rusedski soars into top five

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The Independent Online
Greg Rusedski won the Swiss indoor championships yesterday when he beat Mark Philippoussis in straight sets in the final.

As Derrick Whyte reports from Basle, the victory will take the British No 1 into the world's top five.

It was billed as a battle of the big hitters, but in the end Greg Rusedski was the only player who came out with all guns blazing. The Briton served 22 aces past Australia's Mark Philippoussis on his way to a 6-3, 7-6, 7-6 victory to win his second tournament of the season.

His success in the Swiss indoor championships earned Rusedski, the fourth seed, a prize of $137,000 (around pounds 87,000), but the greater reward will be his progress up the world rankings and his likely qualification for the end-of-season ATP championships in Hanover next month.

Already the first British player to reach the world's top 10, Rusedski will be at No 4 or No 5 when the new rankings are announced today. Pete Sampras, Michael Chang and Patrick Rafter occupy the top three positions and Rusedski and Yevgeny Kafelnikov are contesting the No 4 spot. Qualification for the eight-man ATP championships is based on performances in 1997 and Rusedski's results in recent months are likely to send him into the event.

Rusedski now moves on to Vienna, where he is seeded fourth in this week's CA Trophy tournament and will meet Andrei Medvedev of the Ukraine in the first round.

"I'll be in the top five on Monday and that was one of my goals this year," Rusedski said after yesterday's final. "And starting next week in Vienna my goal will be to stay there.

"I think this win will leave me seventh on the list for Hanover and that's my other goal. It would be special to be in Hanover. I don't think there's ever been a British player there. But most of all it's just satisfying to win and to be able to say you're the best for one week."

Yesterday's final was a contest between the world's two fastest servers, but Philippoussis, who lost to Rusedski in the first round at Wimbledon, could manage only nine aces compared with his opponent's 22. "What can you do when someone is serving like that?" Philippoussis said afterwards.

The pattern of the two-hour match was established in the first game when Rusedski served a pair of blistering aces. Philippoussis, who had gone the entire tournament without being broken, saw that streak come to an abrupt end when Rusedski broke him to lead 3-1.

Rusedski dropped only one point on his serve during the first set, although the next two sets were much more tightly fought and both went to tie-breaks.

Earlier in the day Tim Henman, Britain's No 2, teamed up with Switzerland's Marc Rosset to claim his first career doubles title with a marathon 7- 6, 6-7, 7-6 win over Jim Grabb and Karsten Braasch. Henman, who is likely to stay in 20th place in the world rankings after reaching the Basle singles semi-finals, also travels to Vienna this week.

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