Tennis: Sampras wary of Rusedski

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The Independent Online
Wayne Ferreira may not rate Greg Rusedski too highly but he received an endorsement from a more elevated source yesterday. Pete Sampras, the world No 1 and three times the Wimbledon champion, regards the British No 2 as among his most dangerous opponents.

Sampras, who is practising at the All England Club in preparation for next week's championships said: "Rusedski is the one that is tough to play with that lefty serve. Anyone who can serve real big is always someone you are kind of on an edge to play.''

The two players met in the final at San Jose in February when Rusedski took a set off the American only to retire with wrist injury at 0-5 down in the second set. Yesterday Sampras conceded he could have lost that match if his opponent had remained fit. "If he had kept up the way he played in the first set he could easily have beaten me," he said. "He was playing top 10 tennis easily throughout the tournament beating Michael Chang and Andre Agassi.''

This assessment comes as a contrast to Ferreira, the 15th seed at Wimbledon, who was reported to have described Rusedski as a big server with little else of substance to reinforce that power. "I have no sympathy for Greg and his style of play," he was quoted as saying. "He's fortunate to have got so far in the game. Tim Henman is a far more talented player.''

Rusedski, who could not get on court at the Nottingham Open yesterday to play his quarter-final against Australia's Jason Stoltenberg because of rain, has improved his world ranking from 48 at the start of the year to 37. At Queen's last week, where he reached the semi-finals, he suggested he will be a dangerous floater at Wimbledon if he can get past the equally strong serve of Australian Mark Philippoussis.

Rusedski is rescheduled to play on Centre Court today after Henman finishes his quarter-final with the South African, Grant Stafford. After two interruptions for rain, the score stood at 6-3, 3-6 last night.

Anyone familiar with the British No 1's play this week will not be surprised to learn he mixed the good with the bad. In the previous rounds he had begun brightly and faded and, as a variation, he did the opposite.

Henman is the highest surviving seed although there was little evidence of that when he surrendered his first service game with a double-fault. Stafford did the same three games later only for Henman to repeat the lapse immediately.

With the rain spitting down, things looked even bleaker for Henman when he had two break points against him in the fifth game of the second set. Three aces rescued him then and the weather completed the salvation operation because he came out of the first interruption like a different man.

Where his service had been as much miss as hit, he suddenly found his range and in the four games that were possible he wrapped up the set 6- 3 with his eighth ace of the match so far.