Tennis: Stich profits from Rosset's risky business

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MICHAEL STICH was smiling for a change, in relief rather than amusement, after the eccentric Marc Rosset had squandered two match points to allow him through to the quarter-finals of the dollars 2.25m ( pounds 1.56m) Eurocard Open here yesterday.

Rosset, the Swiss Olympic champion, served for the match at 5-4 in the final set and eagerly demanded the same ball back to play with each time he hit a winner. He reached 40-15 with an ace, and then became over-ambitious, delivering two consecutive double faults. He lost the game, and was still wondering how it had all gone wrong when the umpire was announcing the score, 7-6, 3-6, 7-5.

'I took too much risk,' a devastated Rosset said afterwards. 'The only thing I want to do is go to my room and be alone and not think about the way I lost this match. I will be on a plane home at nine o'clock.' Home Alone III?

In the quarter-finals Stich will play Cedric Pioline, who continued his recent success against his fellow Frenchman Guy Forget, defeating the third seed in three sets. Stich's compatriot, Boris Becker, did not have such a torrid time but still required three match points to defeat Kenneth Carlsen, a Danish qualifier, 6-4, 7-6.

The left-handed Carlsen gave Stich a difficult match in the fourth round of the Australian Open last month, and though Becker took a 5-1 lead in the tie- break he eventually clinched it

8-6. 'I'm really impressed how cool he played the whole match,' Becker said. 'He made me fight hard to win. It is hard to know how far a player like that can go, but he has potential.'

Becker, the top seed, now plays Wayne Ferreira, of South Africa, the winner of the Stella Artois at Queen's Club last June.

Two of the brightest prospects in the sport, Richard Krajicek, 21, and Andrei Medvedev, 18, play each other for the first time in today's quarter-finals. So far this week, Medvedev has earned dollars 60,525 at the rate of dollars 30,262 per set and dollars 2,750 per game. After defeating Markus Zoecke, a German wild-card entry, 6-4, 7-5, in the first round, the Ukrainian was given a walk-over when a stomach upset caused his Swedish opponent, Magnus Larsson, to withdraw in the second round.

In accumulating a similar sum, Krajicek, the fifth seed, has had the unusual experience of playing the two men he met last week in Milan, reversing a defeat by Sergi Bruguera and repeating his success against Jakob Hlasek, serving 25 aces in the process of winning yesterday, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.

Having grown accustomed to the rewards of the game, Krajicek and Medvedev are also coming to terms with the chase for world ranking points. This tournament is particularly profitable. Both players are already guaranteed 83 points and the winner will receive 165 as a semi-finalist.

Along with a cheque for dollars 355,000, the winner of Sunday's final will also be credited with 330 computer points for five matches, which is only 190 less than the Wimbledon champion receives for winning seven matches at the world's most prestigious tournament.

For the successful, the Stuttgart event will count in their running list of 14 best tournaments, while the likes of Carlos Costa, who started the week ranked No 12 and lost in the opening round, will simply forget it and press on elsewhere. The pursuit can be tiring, and something has to give.

'What is being sacrificed,' Hlasek said, 'is one: competing in doubles matches, two: playing in exhibition events, and three: taking part in the Davis Cup.'

While we can live without the exhibition matches, the drain on doubles play and on Davis Cup participation is serious. Becker's absence from the German team and the difficulty the Americans are experiencing in finding players to defend the trophy on grass in Melbourne next month (Jim Courier, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi have opted out) is symptomatic.

Hlasek, who represented Switzerland with Rosset in last year's emotional Davis Cup final in Fort Worth, continued: 'It is very difficult to change the mentality of tennis players after the way the culture of the game has developed over the last 20 or 30 years. Players still like to play for their country, but it has become a very individual sport and everybody does what is best for himself.'

Cash may be flowing here, but there was disappointing news for the women's game yesterday when Kraft General Foods announced in New York that they would not be renewing their sponsorship of the tour at the end of 1994.

Results, Sport in Short, page 31