Fine return for Rusedski

Greg Rusedski finally had his day on court here yesterday, putting his recent drugs controversy behind him and helping Tim Henman steer Britain towards the Davis Cup World Group qualifying round.

Greg Rusedski finally had his day on court here yesterday, putting his recent drugs controversy behind him and helping Tim Henman steer Britain towards the Davis Cup World Group qualifying round.

Victory against Luxembourg in the doubles after Arvind Parmar's disappointing loss in the opening match on Friday, means that Henman can clinch the tie if he defeats Gilles Muller, the Luxembourg No 1, in the first of this afternoon's reverse singles.

In taking their unbeaten run in Davis Cup doubles to eight matches, Henman and Rusedski had to save only one break point before defeating Muller and Mike Scheidweiler, 6-4 7-6 6-3, after an hour and 54 minutes.

"I didn't feel nervous, I felt more emotional coming back after such a long time," said Rusedski, who had not played since losing to Albert Costa of Spain in the first round at the Australian Open in January.

"I haven't enjoyed a tennis match as much as I did today since I won the title at Nottingham [last June]."

Rusedski added that he was fit and ready to play in today's fifth and concluding rubber if Jeremy Bates, the captain, needed him. Bates took the gamble of playing Parmar instead of Rusedski on Friday in order to save the British No 2 from the possibility of having to play three matches in three days, and also to give Parmar a chance to redeem himself for his collapse in the final rubber against Ecuador at Wimbledon in 2000.

"We had tough decisions to make, and made them," said Bates, who is captaining the team for the first time. "It's not easy sitting at the side of the court."

The National Tennis Centre here is reminiscent of any sports centre in any town in Britain, and there was room for fewer than 900 spectators around a compact court with lob-defying hanging beams. Henman and Rusedski served and volleyed in fine style, and when the occasion to lob - or return one that did not hit the ceiling - Henman was the man for the job.

One break of serve was enough to win the opening set, Rusedski cracking Muller with a forehand volley after 32 minutes. Henman and Rusedski dropped only two points each on serve.

Although the second set was tighter, the British pair did not look in danger of losing their serve until Rusedski was taken to deuce at 5-6. He extricated himself by hitting two unreturnable deliveries.

There were some uncomfortable moments from Britain in the tie-break, Rusedski directing a high forehand over the baseline at 3-2 to cancel a mini-break won by Henman. Rusedski's service winner for 4-3 restored calm, and Henman outwitted Scheidweiler with a lob for 5-4, only to be hauled back to 5-5.

A Henman smash brought the first set point at 6-5, only for Rusedski to hit a return long. Rusedski redeemed himslef by serving away a set point for Luxembourg and then beat Scheidweiler with a forehand return on Britain's second set point for 9-7.

In the third set, Scheidweiler double-faulted to gift Britain a 2-0 lead and had to save two break points on his next serve, at 1-4. Rusedski, who had served confidently to this point, double-faulted at 30-30 in the seventh game, but Muller squandered the opportunity with a tame return and Henman served the match out with a service winner on the second match-point.

"We felt very confident coming into the match," Henman said, "and our serving was the key. We were very professional in our attitude and only faced one break point. The first and second sets were were pretty straightforward."

Rusedski, who had every reason to look pleased with his afternoon's work, said: "I think I'm more relaxed out there, enjoying it, having fun. It's good to be out there again playing competitive tennis."

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