How do you transform a £1,500 fine and a deeply unpleasant and embarrassing experience into a handsome profit? Ask Greg Rusedski, who came up grinning and a financial winner, albeit a rather wet one, from the notorious occasion on day three of this year's Wimbledon when he let rip with the "f" word five times live to a dumbstruck Centre Court and a television audience of millions.
When retreat into a deep bunker might have seemed the most sensible option, Rusedski agreed instead to undertake a television commercial making fun of the incident. The good news for Greg was that it worked. The sponsors were "very happy with it" according to their advertising people and the culprit made enough, although the fee was undisclosed, to keep him in mouthwash for life. Only the bruised feelings and assaulted eardrums of those who heard the rant might still need time for forgiveness to materialise.
Foot and knee operations, the latest in a depressing sequence of serious injuries, had kept Rusedski out for nine months until the early summer. He made a fleeting reappearance at the French Open, but it was the grass season - and Wimbledon - where he yearned to do well. Beaten in the third round at Queen's Club by the third seed, Andy Roddick, the British No 2 set off for Nottingham and gave his confidence a major uplift by winning the title.
At Wimbledon, dubbed the most dangerous of floaters, he faced Roddick again, this time in the second round. It was Thunderball, the two biggest servers in the sport facing each other, and Rusedski called it "a huge, key match to my chances". Which perhaps helped to explain the explosion.
Having lost the first two sets on tie-breaks, Rusedski had a revival seriously under way in the third, when he led 5-2. Then a spectator in the crowd called a Roddick shot out, Rusedski hesitated, played on, lost the point, the game and finally his self-control in what the official Wimbledon yearbook called "a classic example of self-destruction" as he sank to defeat in three straight sets. The Swedish umpire, Lars Graff, had acted correctly, ruled the Wimbledon referee, Alan Mills, in not deeming a shout from the crowd as "hindrance" but he withheld the big stick in imposing a fine of only £1,500 for audible obscenity, notwithstanding the apology BBC commentator Barry Davies felt obliged to pass on to viewers.
Rusedski himself said sorry after conceding that he had "lost it a little bit". While Roddick would go on to end the year as world No 1, Greg was condemned to more injury misfortune, but not before Buxton - "the official natural mineral water for the Wimbledon Championships" - had stepped in with their offer. Katy Bridgeman, account director for their advertising agents, said: "We have a campaign called 'Preserving Britain's Purity'. The idea is that Buxton covers up things that are slightly impure, such as someone mooning in the background while John McCririck is talking. There was another one featuring a woman tennis player whose skirt flew up and was covered by a bottle of the water. This advert ran before and during Wimbledon, so the logical idea was to follow up with the Rusedski incident."
A script was put together in three days and shooting went ahead at Roehampton, the nearest lookalike location to Wimbledon available, in the middle of a heatwave. The scenario required Rusedski to let rip with an expletive-free rant while drinking water at the changeover until, in the words of the hand-out, the exasperated umpire "scores an ace - pouring water on to a stormy Rusedski", who was required to lick his lips, smile and come up with the punch line: "Good call, I needed that."
The number of retakes meant that Rusedski was sprayed some two dozen times, "which was a good job since it was such a hot day", said his agent, Sharon Park. He was also required to imbibe a lot, too. "Greg got very wet, poor guy," said Ms Bridgeman, "but he was very patient and full of water because of the number of times we reshot the glug shot."
The end product went out as a 20-second commercial, as well as a 10-second cutdown. The water people were delighted, Greg pocketed his fee and opined: "This is a great opportunity for people to see that I have a good sense of humour and don't take myself too seriously." Currently Rusedski is taking himself seriously in preparation for a rant-free return to the circuit in Adelaide at the start of the 2004 season.