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Tennis: Rusedski's luck runs out for Hanover

GREG RUSEDSKI'S worst fears came true yesterday as Yevgeny Kafelnikov took the final place in the end-of-season ATP World Championships in Hanover.

Kafelnikov beat Goran Ivanisevic, 7-6, 7-6, to win the Kremlin Cup in Moscow and in the process claimed the eighth and final Hanover berth.

Rusedski's semi-final defeat at the hands of Thomas Johansson in the Stockholm Open on Saturday left the British No 2's hopes of reaching Hanover for the second successive year hanging by a thread. And Kafelnikov cut the cord, just as Rusedski had feared.

"I cannot see Yevgeny losing a final in Russia," he said ahead of today's final. "I had my share of luck with Pat Rafter and Richard Krajicek withdrawing but in the end I just could not capitalise."

Kafelnikov's victory means that Tim Henman, who also suffered a semi- final defeat in Stockholm, will be Britain's sole representative at the lucrative German event.

In a rematch of the 1996 final that Ivanisevic won, it was the defending champion and second seed who pocketed the $157,400 (pounds 97,000) first prize as well as grabbing the last place in the eight-man Hanover field.

"I'm very happy to win here and to qualify for Hanover," Kafelnikov told the 14,000 sell-out crowd at Moscow's Olympiisky Sports Complex.

Ivanisevic, the third seed who had a 9-2 edge over Kafelnikov in their 11 previous meetings and who beat him in the three-set final in 1996, had a 6-5, 40-30 advantage in the opening set but missed an easy overhead that would have given him the set.

"It was a very easy overhead which is impossible to miss." the Croat said. "I had the court all open and I went for something ... I wanted to make a hole in the court instead of just placing the ball in the open."

After that miss, Kafelnikov won five straight points and raced to a 3- 0 lead in the tie-break before holding on to win it 7-2. Kafelnikov then broke Ivanisevic in the fourth game of the second set with a backhand cross-court winner for a 3-1 lead. But the Croat broke right back and the players traded two more service breaks on the way to a second tie- break that Kafelnikov finally won 7-5 with a crisp forehand volley.

Ivanisevic felt he had played his best match of the week, but on important points Kafelnikov had the edge.

Meanwhile, Todd Martin capitalised on Thomas Johansson's sloppy serving and beat the Swede in three straight sets to win the Stockholm Open for the first time yesterday. The 28-year-old American, who lost the title match two years ago to another Swede, Thomas Enqvist, won 6-3, 6-4, 6- 4 at the Royal Tennis Hall. He became the first American winner of one of the world's oldest indoor tournaments since John McEnroe in 1984 and 1985.

"I was very confident before the final, because I've played very well in the past few weeks," said Martin, who beat world No 3 Patrick Rafter and No 5 Andre Agassi en route to the semis in the Paris Open a week ago.