Tennis: Wimbledon - Exit Pickard as Rusedski 'stops listening'

Wimbledon: Coach parts company with British No 1 after being angered by his attitude in build-up to Championships
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A SPORTS coach once said that the world does not want to hear the birth pains, only to see the baby. Nevertheless, there will be a degree of public sadness about Tony Pickard's decision to part company with Greg Rusedski yesterday, not least because it severs the Canadian-born British No 1's link with a home-grown mentor.

They had worked together for nine months, since Rusedski marked the pinnacle of his accomplishments to date, as a finalist at the United States Open last September, by sacking his coach, Brian Teacher.

During their 16 months together, Teacher helped broaden Rusedski's game beyond the fastest serve in the sport and the ability to follow up with crisp volleys. Suddenly, Rusedski had decent ground-strokes, particularly on the backhand, which had previously been about as effective as a broken wing.

Rusedski, who hired Teacher as a former top 10 player capable of elevating him to similar status, was on the point of rising to No 4 in the world when he made a change. Rusedski emphasised that money was not the reason, saying that their agreement simply came to an end.

Pickard, semi-retired at his home in Nottingham, was enlisted because Rusedski felt he would benefit from the motivational skills Britain's former Davis Cup captain employed to assist the supremely gifted Swede, Stefan Edberg, to No 1 in the world, with six Grand Slam titles to his name, two of them won at Wimbledon.

Yesterday, the 64-year-old Pickard responded to Rusedski's decision to participate - compete is too strong a term - at Wimbledon in spite of injuring his left ankle when playing in the Stella Artois Championship at London's Queen's Club only 11 days earlier. "He stopped listening," Pickard said.

Rusedski had found he was unable to resume a first-round match delayed overnight by rain with his opponent, Mark Draper, an Australian qualifier, ranked No 238, who was about to serve to lead by two sets to one.

His coach was not alone in questioning the wisdom of Rusedski's presence on Court No 1 on Tuesday evening, the ankle all but immobilised by a brace, affording him little more than a limping role in the world's most prestigious tennis tournament. But Pickard was also fuming about Rusedski's behaviour since the injury occurred.

"Over the last few weeks there was a total breakdown in communication," Pickard said. "For two days I had no idea where he was. At this level, unless there's complete trust, it stops working. We have had trust, but over the last 10 or 12 days, it all seemed to go out of the window.

"I didn't believe he should have played. I know what his injuries are, but there were outside influences telling him that he was going to be fit to play. I didn't consider that he was. But the other thing that broke the camel's back was the fact that for two days I couldn't find him."

Rusedski has a personal trainer, Steve Green, and is being treated by Reza Daneshmand, an Iranian physiotherapist at the Chelsea Harbour Club, in London.

"I think the timing [of Pickard's decision] is a little bit suspect," Rusedski said. "Fair enough, he didn't like some of the decisions I made with my physiotherapy, and the people around me. But just because I get this injury, and it happens to be Wimbledon time, and I decide to give it a go, does not give a person a reason to make that choice. But I guess that just shows a person's true colours."

It was his trainer, Green, who convinced Rusedski to withdraw from the match yesterday. "Steve is a man of few words, shall we say, and if he says something, you're definitely going to listen," Rusedski said. "He just had a talk with me downstairs and said, 'Your movement wasn't up to par. Just don't do it.' " Ironically, that last sentence happens to be the direct opposite of the slogan of Nike, Rusedski's clothing sponsor.

"Tony feels that he doesn't want to work with me any more, and that's it. So the relationship is basically done. That's his choice. I had to go out there and play, and I don't regret it in the least. I think I made the right decision for myself.

"I had confidence in my physio, and I had confidence in my physical trainer and the people that were around me. If that's the way he [Pickard] feels, that's fine. But I don't think that's the most supportive way to support a person.

"Wimbledon only comes around once a year, it's the biggest tournament in the world, it's at home, it's the one the British public come to support and come to see myself, and Tim [Henman] and all the other British players do well.

"I would have been gutted if I hadn't have stepped on the court at least and given it a go. Can you imagine sitting there for two weeks watching Wimbledon go by and not being to play? It's not a good feeling."

Rusedski said he would rest and continue to have treatment in the hope of making a comeback when the American hard-court circuit resumes in Washington in a month's time. Asked whether he had any plans for a replacement coach, he said: "I'm not worried about it. The coach can help, but it's the player at the end of the day."

Henman was able to provide news better suited to a mainly sunny day, advancing to the third round by defeating David Nainkin, a South African qualifier who performed way above a ranking of No 234. Some of Nainkin's passing shots were worthy of an airing on the Centre Court.

"It was a very tough match," Henman said. "There were times when he was playing great tennis, not the tennis that people normally play on the grass, but staying back, hitting his ground strokes really well and returning well."

Reacting to Pickard's decision, Henman said, "I'm a little bit surprised. When they started working with each other they seemed to have a good relationship."

n As fading light curtailed play on Centre Court with Andre Agassi 2- 1 down against Germany's Tommy Haas, the British umpire John Frame was booed off for failing to over-rule a baseline call, giving Haas set point in a third set tie-break which he won, 7-4. The fun resumes today.

Yesterday at Wimbledon

No 2 seed Rios falls in five sets to Clavet of Spain

Sampras, Graf and Seles sail into the third round

Smith keeps British flag flying but sprains ankle in victory

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