Tennis: Rusedski turns on the power

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The Independent Online
GREG RUSEDSKI breezed past the German Axel Pretzsch yesterday to join Tim Henman in the second round of the Swiss Indoor Championships in Basle. Rusedski, ranked No 14 in the world and the seventh seed, defeated Pretzsch 6-2, 6-2 and now plays another German qualifier, David Prinosil.

"I like it here. I have a record of nine wins and only one loss," Rusedski said. "But it's one of the most spectacular draws there's been here in a long time with Sampras, Agassi and Rafter."

Rusedski needed only 52 minutes to beat Pretzsch, and in one game produced three consecutive aces. "I was really pleased with the way I played," said Rusedski."Everything is coming together nicely."

Henman, the sixth seed, beat Australian Jason Stoltenberg in three sets in his opening match on Tuesday and now faces the Moroccan Hicham Arazi.

David Lloyd, Britain's Davis Cup captain, is astounded that his team are not among the eight seeded nations in the World Group next year.

The draw for the first round is to be made in London today, and though Britain have Henman and Rusedski in the world's top 14, they have been ignored for a seeding place.

"Not to seed us is the most incredible decision I have ever heard," Lloyd said. "I cannot see how it is possible because it does not make sense. It puts us in a very serious position because it means we have to be drawn against one of the seeds. We could play Spain away and we could be the two best nations in the competition."

The seeded countries are Italy, Sweden, Spain, United States, Australia, France, the Czech Republic and Germany - Britain would only have home advantage if they played the United States, France or Germany. Countries play home or away depending on where they last played their opponents since 1970, and Britain would have to visit Italy, Spain, Australia and the Czech Republic. If they draw Sweden, the venue will be drawn by lot.

Only the United States, Australia, Spain and the non-seeded Netherlands have two players with a combined singles ranking higher than Britain, so Lloyd believes we should be seeded no lower than fifth.

The International Tennis Federation say that the seeding criteria is based on the performance of the countries in the World Group in recent years, the rankings of players both in singles and doubles and their performances on different surfaces.

Lloyd said: "We have not been in the World Group for six years, so how can they rate our performances? We have two very highly ranked players in Tim and Greg in singles, and don't forget that Neil Broad is very highly ranked in doubles."

Lloyd also dismisses suggestions that Britain were not seeded because they would be in trouble if either Henman or Rusedski were injured. "Countries don't always have their best teams," he said. "For example, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi didn't play for America in their last Davis Cup match."

Steffi Graf, who underwent surgery on a hand three weeks ago, is to return at next month's WTA Philadelphia tournament.