Krajicek overpowers exhausted Rusedski

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The Independent Online

One of the regulars at the $2.45m Eurocard Open is an elderly woman who wears elegant hats, circa 1950s. Yesterday she sported a peach and tulle number for a day at the aces. Richard Krajicek did not disappoint, hitting 10, but Greg Rusedski was slightly off his game, four aces and two double-faults summarising his weary afternoon.

One of the regulars at the $2.45m Eurocard Open is an elderly woman who wears elegant hats, circa 1950s. Yesterday she sported a peach and tulle number for a day at the aces. Richard Krajicek did not disappoint, hitting 10, but Greg Rusedski was slightly off his game, four aces and two double-faults summarising his weary afternoon.

Krajicek, a 6-4 6-4 winner who today will try to win his third Stuttgart indoor title in five finals, suspected that Rusedski was carrying a leg injury. The British No 1 made no mention of any ailment, although he has requested a Wednesday start for the defence of his Paris Open title next week. Seeded No 6, and given a bye, he is drawn to play either Albert Costa, of Spain, or Sweden's Magnus Norman in the second round.

The peachy tulle looked decidedly limp when Andre Agassi, the world No 1, was unable to sustain his impressive recent form against the solid serving and potent groundstrokes of Sweden's Thomas Enqvist. Steffi Graf, at courtside, was among those who shared the hat woman's dismay at Agassi's semi-final defeat, 6-2 4-6 6-0.

Rusedski said he was suffering the after-effects of the previous day's match. That was understandable, given that he had saved four match points against Todd Martin in the quarter-finals before ridding himself of haunting memories of the American's power in Birmingham and resilience in New York. Friday's three-set victory against Martin was almost as sweet for Rusedski as his recent tournament successes at the Grand Slam Cup in Munich and the CA Tennis Trophy in Vienna. He was able to evaluate yesterday's loss as a price to be paid rather than a set-back, particularly as he says he is not overly concerned about qualifying for next month's ATP Tour Championship in Hanover.

"Richard played better than me today, and I just couldn't lift to that extra level," Rusedski said. "I needed a little bit extra movement, and I just didn't have it. These courts are very punishing to the body. When you're playing a top 10 player, whether it's Todd Martin or Richard Krajicek, you have to be at 100 per cent form and feeling 100 per cent well or you're going to struggle, especially against a guy who plays this well at this event every year."

Krajicek served well from the start - he hit four aces in his opening service game, cancelling a double-fault - but the contest was tight enough to come down to one opportunity on each side in the first set, and an opening for Krajicek in the second set.

Rusedski's only break point came at 30-40 in the eighth game. Krajicek saved it with a serve and backhand volley. In the next game, the Dutchman created an opportunity by running down a Rusedski volley and returning it down the line, and converted with a backhand cross-court winner.

Krajicek controlled the second set, one of his few moments of disquiet coming in the second game when he could see the far baseline through the net rather than slightly above it. The centre cord had come adrift. Hasty repairs solved that problem, and in the fifth game helped by double-faulting to 15-30. Krajicek returned a serve to Rusedski's feet for 15-40, and secured the second of the break points with a return off a second serve.

Rusedski is looking forward to returning to Paris, where he defeated Pete Sampras in the final last year to win his first ATP Tour Super 9 championship. Agassi also has a soft spot for Paris, where he completed his collection of the four Grand Slam singles titles at the French Open in June.

Enqvist, who has won four out of six matches against Agassi, served 14 aces yesterday and was secure in every facet of his game. Agassi, when asked what went wrong in the final set, joked: "I think he just got mad that I broke him back at 4-5 in the second set."

Agassi added: "I got broken in the first game of every set. It was an uphill battle from there. Thomas hits a different ball than most guys. He handles pace well, and delivers pace well. When he's on his game, he's one of the toughest out there."

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