Cash may help Rusedski to halt the slide

British No 2 has turned to a former Wimbledon champion in his search for a new coach and a new beginning

Greg Rusedski sped to victory in 43 minutes here yesterday, dropping only eight points on his serve, and then spoke about the possibility of hiring Pat Cash as his new coach - positive signs that the British No 2 is rousing himself after a "nightmare year".

Greg Rusedski sped to victory in 43 minutes here yesterday, dropping only eight points on his serve, and then spoke about the possibility of hiring Pat Cash as his new coach - positive signs that the British No 2 is rousing himself after a "nightmare year".

Even though the Frenchman Jerome Golmard seemed primed for capitulation after losing their three previous matches, it was difficult not to be impressed by Rusedski's savaging of his fellow left-hander, 6-1, 6-2, in the first round of the Eurocard Open.

Rusedski's uncompromising mood may have been related to the embarrassment of starting the day in the depths at No 89 in the ATP Tour's tournament entry system (his ranking points as a semi-finalist in Stuttgart last year no longer counted).

Only Pete Sampras's decision to forego the Masters Series tournaments in Stuttgart and Paris in order to extend his honeymoon allowed Rusedski direct entry to the event in Germany, otherwise he would have had to try to qualify over the weekend.

On the plus side, the 27-year-old Rusedski has no further ranking points to defend for the remainder of the year, and he hopes to recruit Cash, the rugged Australian 1987 Wimbledon champion, to help rebuild his confidence for next season's campaign.

"I spoke to Pat last week," Rusedski said. "He's very busy at the moment, building a tennis academy with Gavin Hopper in Australia. We're going to sit down and discuss things when he gets back to London in December. I want to get someone who is based around England, who I can work with on a constant basis, and who's got expertise and knowledge. I'm still deciding who it is going to be. I still have otheroptions."

Rusedski at least seems closer to making a decision than when he played in Vienna recently. Asked for an update regarding a replacement for the Dutchman Sven Groeneveld, who left him after Wimbledon, Rusedski said: "I thought my wife [Lucy] did a great job today." He may have lost a lot this year, but his sense of humour remains intact, even if the grin is not always the width of the Atlantic.

Mrs Rusedski is an actress, and her courtside appearance in a supporting role apparently inspired her husband to overcome Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Russia's Olympic gold medalist, in his first-round match in Vienna. Michelle Pfeiffer would have struggled to lift Rusedski's sagging spirits in the second round, however, when the weary defending champion was eliminated by FernandoVicente, of Spain.

"I've only just more or less started to figure things about about getting a coach," Rusedski said. "I don't think it was fair to have a coach when I was breaking down all the time, physically and mentally, because that can cause conflict. Even if I would have had a coach through this period, I don't think I would have done much better, to be honest with you."

The Vienna tournament was a triumph for Tim Henman, the British No 1, who won his first title for two years, ending a run of defeats in seven consecutive finals. Henman upstaged Rusedski again last week by advancing to the semi-finals of the Swiss Indoor event in Basle before losing to Sweden's Thomas Enqvist.

But Rusedski's progress to his first quarter-final since reaching the semi-finals of the AXA Cup at the London Indoor Arena in February may have revitalised him for challenges anew. While annoyed with himself for not performing better on Friday against Australia'sLleyton Hewitt, the victor at Queen's Club in June, Rusedski took encouragement from his second-round win against the Dutchman, Richard Krajicek, a contest in which he recovered after dropping the opening set to the 1996 Wimbledon champion.

"Now I'm feeling good," Rusedski said. "My body's feeling good. My mind is feeling good. If I can finish the year at No 50, that would be a fabulous result for me."

A year ago Rusedski capitalised in Germany after a stroke of fortune. Fifth reserve for the Grand Slam Cup in Munich, Rusedski was promoted to one of the 12 places from No 17 on the list after a series of withdrawals. He ended up winning $1.3m (about £890,000), the biggest cheque of his career, after defeating Germany's Tommy Haas in the men's singles final.

The success in Munich gave Rusedski his first title since a stirring win against Sampras in the final of the indoor tournament in Paris in November 1998. After Munich, Rusedski went on to win in Vienna, confirming his status in 1999 as the most successful player in the world on indoor courts, his booming, left-handed deliveries thriving in a server-friendly zone: "No rain, no sun - no problems."

Rusedski, however, did have a problem - underfoot. On 22 December, shortly after his wedding, he had surgery in Munich to shave off bone spurs and remove a cyst from his right foot. A recurrence of the pain caused him to withdraw from Britain's home Davis Cup tie against Ecuador the weekend after Wimbledon, having lost his opening singles match. Britain's defeat cost them membership of the élite World Group of 16 nations.

Rusedski did not play again until the United States Open at the end of August, the injury having claimed a total of five months of his season and allowed uncertainty to infiltrate his mind. A lack of flexibility when pushing off the ground with his leading right foot impaired the rhythm of a serving technique once capable of launching the fastest delivery ever recorded on the ATP Tour (149 mph). "You cut off my left arm if you take away my serve," he said.

After Wimbledon, Rusedski and Groeneveld announced a mutual decision to end their coaching arrangement. Before and during the US Open, Rusedski worked with the American Scott Brooke, one of his former guides. Brooke's family commitments, however, prevented him from becoming Rusedski's travelling coach.

Patrice Hagelauer, the LTA's performance director, met with Rusedski for two and a half hours recently and assured him that help was available. If he needs technical assistance with his game, the door is open for him to seek advice fromHagelauer, who guidedYannick Noah to the French Open title in 1983, or from Roger Taylor, the Davis Cup captain, or from Jeremy Bates, the former British No 1 who now runs men's national training. Rusedski was also told that the LTA's medical resources are available should he need help in overcoming injuries.

"I think I'm over my injuries and the injury-prone period I had," Rusedski said yesterday. "This year has been haphazard, stop-start, stop-start, all sorts of different things happening. I've had probably what happens to most people's career in about five years rolled into one. Now I'm feeling really positive, looking forward to the future, looking forward to playing good tennis."

RUSEDSKI'S ROCKY ROAD IN 2000

Rotterdam (14 Feb): Indoor hard court ATP entry system: No 13 R32 bt Karol Kucera (Slovak) 6-2 7-5; R16 bt Filip Dewulf (Bel) 7-6 6-4; QF lost to Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Rus) 7-6 4-6 4-6

London Arena (21 Feb): Indoor hard court ATP entry system: No 15 R32 bt Arnaud Clement (Fr) 6-3 6-4; R16 bt Jerome Golmard (Fr) 7-6 7-6; QF bt Mariano Zabaleta (Arg) 6-4 7-5; SF lost to Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Rus) 3-6 6-7.

Scottsdale (6 Mar): Outdoor hard court ATP entry system: No 17 R32 lost to Pete Sampras (US) 3-6 4-6.

Indian Wells (13 Mar): Outoor hard court ATP entry system: No 18 R64 bt James Blake (US) 6-2 6-0; R32 lost to Max Mirnyi (Bela) 4-6 4-6.

Key Biscayne (23 Mar): Outdoor hard court ATP entry system: No 18 R128 Bye; R64 bt Andrei Medvedev (Ukr) 6-4 7-5; R32 bt Byron Black (Zim) 6-1 7-6; R16 lost to P Sampras (US) 3-6 3-6.

Monte Carlo (17 April): Outdoor clay ATP entry system: No 15 R64 lost to Slava Dosedel (Cz Rep) 4-6 7-6 1-6.

Barcelona (24 April): Outdoor clay ATP entry system: No 16 R64 Bye; R32 bt Karim Alami (Mor) 6-3 3-6 6-2; R16 lost to Tommy Haas (Ger) 6-7 3-6.

Rome (8 May): Outdoor clay ATP entry system: No 15 R64 lost to Fernando Vicente (Sp) 3-6 1-6

French Open (29 May): Outdoor clay ATP entry system: No 17 R128 lost to Slava Dosedel (Cz Rep) 3-6 6-7 6-7.

Queen's Club, London (12 June): Grass ATP entry system: No 20 R64 bt Wayne Ferreira (SA) 7-5 6-4; R32 bt Jens Knippschild (Ger) 7-6 7-6; R16 lost to Marat Safin (Rus) 7-6 6-7 4-6.

Wimbledon (26 June): Grass ATP entry system: No 22 R128 lost to Vince Spadea (US) 3-6 3-6 7-6 7-9.

Davis Cup: GB v Ecuador (14 July): Grass ATP entry system: No 26 R1 lost to Nicolas Lapentti (It) 3-6 7-6 5-7 6-4 5-7.

United States Open (28 Aug): Outdoor hard court ATP entry system: No 34 R128 bt Magnus Gustafsson (Swe) 6-1 6-2 6-4; R64 lost to Cedric Pioline (Fr) 7-6 6-3 4-6 6-7 3-6.

Tashkent (11 Sept): Outdoor hard court ATP entry system: No 38 R32 bt Sargis Sargsian (Arm) 6-3 7-5; R16 lost to Andrei Stoliarov (Rus) 7-6 3-6 5-7.

Olympic Games Sydney (18 Sept): Outdoor hard court ATP entry system: No 38 R64 lost to Arnaud Clement (Fr) 2-6 3-6.

Vienna (9 Oct): Indoor hard court ATP entry system: No 44 R32 bt Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Rus) 6-4 6-7 6-3; R16 lost to Fernando Vicente (Sp) 2-6 7-6 2-6.

Toulouse (16 Oct): Indoor hard court ATP entry system: No 67 R32 lost to Hicham Arazi (Mor) 3-6 4-6.

Basle (23 Oct): Indoor hard court ATP entry system: No 69 R32 bt Karim Alami (Mor) 7-5 6-1; R16 bt Richard Krajicek (Neth); QF lost to Lleyton Hewitt (Aus) 7-6 6-2.

Stuttgart (30 Oct): Indoor hard court ATP Tour entry system: No 89 R48 bt Jerome Golmard (Fr) 6-1 6-2

 

Overall record

Won 17, lost 18 (indoors won, 9 lost 5). Singles prize money: $257,308

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