Tennis: Rusedski turns his attention to Cup

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The Independent Online
GREG RUSEDSKI, in common with Tim Henman, was left to rue missed opportunities at the Lipton Championships here and turn his attention to the Davis Cup tie against the United States at the National Indoor Arena, in Birmingham, next week.

Rusedski appeared to be on course for a place in the quarter-finals until his serve wavered during a fourth-round match against Germany's Nicolas Kiefer. Two points from victory at 5-4 in the second set, Rusedski subsequently double-faulted to give Kiefer the incentive to level the match.

Another double-fault gave Kiefer the initiative to break for 2-3 in the third set, and three more virtually handed the Germany the match at 2- 5. Kiefer won, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

"At least it didn't happen in the Davis Cup," Rusedski said. "That would be a little bit more disappointing. I just have to take the positive."

Henman is in a similar situation, wishing he were still here in Florida competing for world ranking points while reasoning that a brief rest will do no harm before preparing for Birmingham.

The American media has been doing its best to play down the importance of the Davis Cup, suggesting that Britain are as good as through to the second round of the World Group with a home tie against a side lacking Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, both of whom declined selection. Rusedski is not fooled by such talk, pointing out that Todd Martin and Jim Courier, backed by Jan-Michael Gambill and the doubles-specialist Alex O`Brien, add up to a formidable squad (with a combined head-to-head lead of 13- 2 against the Britons).

"One guy's in the top 10 [Martin], and another player's a former No 1 [Courier]," Rusedski said. "I think it's a little bit of games going on. If we play well, I think we have a good chance to win, and we're favoured. It's not going to be an easy tie at all. It's going to be a very difficult match.

"Martin this year has played better than any of the American players so far. Courier and Gambill have probably been the most solid behind him. Agassi really hasn't played that well yet this year, and this is the first week where Sampras seems to be getting back his form a little bit."

Courier is the type whose pride will relish the challenge of taking centre stage for his country. "Exactly," Rusedski said. "He's been in those situations. Sometimes in Davis Cup it doesn't come down to the best tennis in the world; it comes down to the one who can guts it out a bit more. That might make the difference."

Rusedski and Henman were consulted about the type of indoor surface to be used in Birmingam and agreed that hard court painted on wood, similar to the one at the ATP Tour Championship in Hanover, seemed to be the best option, even though it would appear to suit both sets of players. Would Rusedski not have preferred a fast carpet on which to unleash his serve?

"Originally, we were trying to put down a GreenSet court like the London event in Battersea. We've practised on it at Queen's Club. It didn't bounce.

The court didn't come off properly like it does at the Battersea event. We decided just to go to the Hanover court, which is a very fair court. The ball kicks up, you can slice it; it gives you time to make some returns indoors.

"They're obviously good players. Todd plays well whether it's low bouncing, high bouncing, indoors. We know we have a tough point there. And with Jim being a former No 1, it's going to be difficult. We'll find out on the weekend whether it was a good selection or not."

Sampras may be giving the Davis Cup a miss, but he is back on top of the world in spite of being overwhelmed in yesterday's quarter-final against Richard Krajicek, the 1996 Wimbledon champion, 6-2, 7-6. Carlos Moya's reign at No 1 ended after he was defeated by Sebastien Grosjean, a determined Frenchman, ranked No 74, and Alex Corretja was unable to lift the fallen Spanish flag, losing to Sweden's Thomas Enqvist.

Marcelo Rios, whose glorious visit to the Lipton last year ended with Chile celebrating its first world No 1, went out with a whimper this time, crashing to the Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty in the fourth round, 6-2, 6-0.

Martina Hingis and Steffi Graf stayed on course for a possible meeting in Sunday's women's singles final. Hingis, the world No 1, advanced the quarter-finals, defeating Marlene Weingartner, a 19-year-old German qualifier, 6-0, 6-2, and Graf, seeded No 7, reached the last eight with a 6-2, 6- 4 win against Natasha Zvereva, who defeated her in the third round at Wimbledon last year. Graf has won her last 21 matches at the Lipton.

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