An email conversation with Greg Rusedski: 'I'm never as bad as they say when I lose and not as good when I win'
Rekindling his annual love affair with grass courts; How being a father has put tennis into perspective; Why Nadal typifies a more one-dimensional game; Having his very own Rusedski would help Murray
Monday 12 June 2006
The grass-court season begins in earnest today with the start of the Stella Artois Championships at Queen's Club. Bearing in mind your lack of success on clay over the years, do you heave a sigh of relief when this time of year comes around? It's the most exciting part of the year for me. It also leads on to the American hard-court season, which I also love, though Wimbledon has always been the ultimate for me. I love the smell of the grass, the whole environment. I'd love to have a good run at Wimbledon this summer because it's a few years since I've made it into the second week. Even after Wimbledon there's another grass-court tournament that's a favourite of mine, at Newport in the United States. I've won the singles there three times.
As a serve-and-volley player, are you part of a dying breed? Undoubtedly. Even last year I found ways of getting into the net on clay and on hard courts, but this year the balls are slower than ever, the courts are stickier and it's more and more difficult to play that game. Having said that, I still think guys like Tim Henman, Taylor Dent, Max Mirnyi and myself can win some matches playing serve-and-volley. I think it's a shame we're losing that style of tennis. The game has become much more one- dimensional. Rafael Nadal typifies the modern style. He has a lot of energy, hits a lot of balls back and does a lot of running, but what brought me into tennis was the way [John] McEnroe played, with his serve-and- volley game. I always like to watch a contrast of styles: the sort of matches that [Pete] Sampras and [Andre] Agassi would have. Thank God we still have Roger Federer, who plays the game so beautifully from the back of the court, can play the angles and can come into the net and volley when he needs to.
Have the Stella Artois Championships been good for you? My best year was when I lost to Goran Ivanisevic in a marathon third set tie-breaker in the 1997 semi-finals, though I also have some bad memories. The following year I injured my ankle, which did for my chances at Wimbledon.
How do the courts at Queen's compare to Wimbledon's? They're the best grass courts on the planet. The Centre Court at Queen's is out of this world. They're a bit quicker than Wimbledon, where they use a different sort of grass, though the Wimbledon courts are excellent as well. I practise at Queen's regularly. It's only 15 minutes from my house.
What are your hopes at Wimbledon this year? What I love about grass is that anything can happen. The courts have slowed down a lot, but I can still play my natural game of chip-and-charge, serve-and-volley. I remember the first time I played, in 1993 when I lost to Stefan Edberg on Court Two. The balls were sailing, there were a lot more aces and it was much harder to return serve than it is with the courts as they are now. I can still play that game. If I'm hot for a few matches I can get to the second week.
Following the arrival of your new baby, Scarlett, are you worried you might have some interrupted nights during Queen's and Wimbledon? I've been very lucky. My wife Lucy has been very supportive and lets me get my rest before matches and training. I love being a father. Having a baby around definitely changes your lifestyle. It also puts things into perspective. I've been playing professionally for 15 years now and things like the travelling do get harder. It's coming to an end sooner or later, but this is a lovely stage of my life, where I can play and still spend time with my daughter and wife.
You've said that your goal every year is to win at least one tournament. Is that the same this year? This grass-court season will tell me a lot about how much longer I'm going to play. I think I've got the most wins on grass  of any player currently active. I'd like to get to 100. I've won five grass-court titles, which I think only Roger Federer of the current players can beat. I'm proud of those things. I've won 15 titles in total during my career and not many other players can match that.
Do you ever think about life after tennis? I thought I would finish playing by the time I was 30, but here I am coming up to 33. I do think about it. I'd like to stay in the game, particularly helping younger players to develop and giving them the benefit of my experience on the tour. I enjoy working with the younger kids at the LTA [Lawn Tennis Association]. We're fortunate that we're going to have Andy Murray to watch at Wimbledon over the next 10 years, but he needs somebody to be a distraction. Tim Henman has done better than me at Wimbledon and has been a more consistent presence in the top 10, but I think that having me around to deflect attention has helped him.
Does anyone else in tennis get the same sort of attention as British players when Wimbledon comes around? It's hard for British players because if anyone shows any potential whatsoever then people talk about them as possible Wimbledon champions. If you talk to the average person in the street they don't seem to understand that you play tennis elsewhere in the other months of the year. The trouble is that we have so many newspapers in this country and everything gets really hyped up. When people write about me I always think that I'm never as bad as they say when I lose and I'm never as good when I win. Unfortunately, there's no middle ground.
Has Andy Murray got the potential to be a very successful grass-court player? Andy returns serve brilliantly and moves fantastically well. He hits great passing shots on the run. If he can be more consistent with his serve and mix it up a bit more, he has the chance to do really well. He needs to develop his game, but he's only 19.
If there was one match you could play again, what would it be? I wish I could play like I did against Pete Sampras in the final of the Paris indoor tournament in 1998. That day I woke up and knew I was going to win. I wish I could have felt that way when I played the US Open final against Pat Rafter in 1997. If I played as well as I did that day against Sampras I think I would have had my Grand Slam title.
The Stella Artois Championships are at the Queen's Club, London, from today until 18 June. For more information, visit www.stellaartoistennis.com
* 1973 Born 6 September 1973, in Montreal, Canada.
* Lives London. Height 6ft 4in. Weight 14st 4lb. Family Father Tom is a Canadian of Ukrainian descent. Mother Helen was born in Britain and later moved to Canada. Married Lucy Connor in December 1999. Daughter Scarlett Mary born in January 2006.
* Career Turned professional in 1991.
Singles titles 1993 Newport. 1995 Seoul. 1996 Beijing. 1997 Basle, Nottingham. 1998 Antwerp, Paris (indoor). 1999 Grand Slam Cup, Vienna. 2001 San Jose. 2002 Auckland, Indianapolis. 2003 Nottingham. 2004 Newport. 2005 Newport.
Beaten finalist 1993 Beijing. 1995 Coral Springs. 1997 San Jose, US Open, Vienna, Zagreb. 1998 Indian Wells, Split, Toulouse. 1999 Boston, London (indoor). 2004 Moscow.
* Grand Slams
Best performances: Australian Open Fourth round 2001. French Open Fourth round 1999. Wimbledon Quarter-finals 1997. US Open Beaten finalist 1997.
* Current world ranking 42.
Highest world ranking 4 (1997).
Prize money $8,861,161 (£4.74m)
Award BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1997.
Highlights Beat Mikhail Youzhny in first round of Miami Masters. Reached third round of Rome Masters, winning two successive matches on clay for first time since 1999 - victory over Tommy Robredo was his first over a top 10 player on clay.
Lows Beaten 6-2, 6-4 by Stanislas Wawrinka in first round at Indian Wells. Beaten 6-1, 6-1 by Gilles Simon in first round in Hamburg.
Overall record: Won six matches and lost 10.
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