Injury to Larsson lets Rusedski through

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The Independent Online

Events began to swing in favour of the two British contenders at the $2.45m Eurocard Open here yesterday, even before Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman had an opportunity to strike a ball.

Events began to swing in favour of the two British contenders at the $2.45m Eurocard Open here yesterday, even before Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman had an opportunity to strike a ball.

Rusedski, who was given a bye in the first round as the No 5 seed, discovered that he had received a walk-over into the third round at the expense of Sweden's Magnus Larsson, who injured his lower back during his opening match on Monday night against Laurence Tieleman, of Belgium.

The winner of the Vienna tournament 10 days ago, Rusedski will tomorrow play either Tommy Haas, the German No 11 seed, or the South African Wayne Ferriera, ranked No 51 in the world.

Rusedski has been in Stuttgart since last Friday, having taken a four-day break after Vienna and decided to come to Germany early to practise on the indoor court, "because there's no surface like this in England."

Scheduled to play Larsson last night in the concluding match on the Centre Court, Rusedski heard at 3.30pm that the Swede had withdrawn. "I would rather have played a match," Rusedski said, "because it's always good to get into a tournament. If you look at the example of Vienna, where [Yevgeny] Kafelnikov had a walk-over against [Jan] Siemerink. The next day Kafelnikov came out, and it wasn't his best tennis, let's say."

Rusedski started the week as a 16th placed outsider for next month's eight-man ATP Tour Championship in Hanover. Tim Henman, in ninth place, is on the fringe of qualification as the points race moves into its concluding stages: the two remaining Super 9 events, in Stuttgart this week and in Paris next week, followed by regular tournaments in Stockholm and Moscow.

Injuries may play a part in Henman's progress. Henman was projected for a third-round meeting with Germany's Nicolas Kiefer, No 5 in the race for Hanover. But Kiefer was forced to retire yesterday during his second round match against Andrei Pavel, of Romania, after damaging tendons in his left ankle in the opening set. And there are doubts that the American Pete Sampras, fourth in the Hanover race, will risk his suspect back by returning to Europe for the season's finale.

"I'm very disappointed," Kiefer said after visiting hospital. "I think the chances of going to Hanover are getting worse and worse. I need to rest and have good treatment. I will only play if my leg is 100%."

Henman, who was given a bye here as the No 10 seed, is due to play his second round match today against Daniel Vacek, a 28-year-old Czech, ranked No 54. Henman has won his four previous matches against Vacek, although all but the last one, on slow clay at the Italian Open in May, went three sets.

That match at the Foro Italico in Rome, which Henman won, 7-5, 6-3, was remarkable because for much of the contest Henman struggled to hold his own serve, let alone break his opponent's serve. Yet Henman's resolve enabled him to recover from 0-3 in the second set.

Rusedski, who says he is more concerned with improving his form and fitness for next season, none the less pointed out that last year he was No 17 in the Hanover race going into Paris and qualified for the ATP Tour Championship as an alternate.

"I'm still not really thinking about that," he said. "Hanover to me is not the most important thing right now. If I get there, it's great; if I don't, I don't. I just want to play good tennis and be ready for the Grand Slam season next year."

RESULTS

First round:Hicham Arazi (Morocco) beat Albert Costa (Spain) 7-5 2-6 6-3Jim Courier (US) beat Marc Rosset (Switzerland) 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-2Sebastien Grosjean (France) beat Fernando Vicente (Spain) 6-2 6-2Wayne Ferreira (South Africa) beat Justin Gimelstob (U.S.) 6-4 4-6 6-4Farice Santoro (France) beat Younes El Aynaoui (Morocco) 6-2 6-4Mariano Zabaleta (Argentina) beat Vincent Spadea (US) 6-4 3-6 6-1

Second round:13 Thomas Enqvist (Sweden) beat Michael Chang (US) 6-4 6-2(5) Greg Rusedski (Britain) beat Magnus Larsson (Sweden) w/oAndrei Pavel (Romania) beat (7) Nicolas Kiefer (Germany) 6-5 retired

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