Kuerten closing on world No 1 position

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The Independent Online

Gustavo Kuerten battled past the French wild card Michael Llodra 7-5, 7-6 to reach the quarter-finals of the Lyon Grand Prix yesterday, moving a step closer to his first indoor title and to finishing the year as world No 1.

Gustavo Kuerten battled past the French wild card Michael Llodra 7-5, 7-6 to reach the quarter-finals of the Lyon Grand Prix yesterday, moving a step closer to his first indoor title and to finishing the year as world No 1.

Kuerten, who leads the Champions Race 2000 by three points from the US Open champion, Marat Safin, faced a potentially tricky opponent in the 126th-ranked Llodra, who enjoyed the biggest win of his career by beating Albert Costa, of Spain, in the first round.

Despite the closeness of the contest, the Brazilian never looked in danger. In the first set, Kuerten recorded the decisive break to go in front 6-5 and then closed out the set with two aces.

Llodra, whose father, Michel, use to play football for Paris St-Germain, forced the twice French Open champion to a tie-break in the second set. But, again, Kuerten's experience told, the Brazilian pulling away at 3-3 to take the tie-break 7-4.

The eighth seed, Patrick Rafter, tuned up for Australia's Davis Cup final with Spain next month, advancing with a 7-6, 6-2 defeat of the Moroccan Younes El Aynaoui in the second round.

The top seed and title holder, Jamie Delgado, was beaten 7-6, 6-2 by his fellow Davis Cup player Luke Milligan in the second round of the LTA National Championships at Telford yesterday. Julie Pullin, twice a winner of the women's event, and Lorna Woodroffe both reached the quarter-finals. Pullin beat Alice Barnes 6-4, 6-2. Woodroffe defeated Cristelle Grier 7-5, 7-5.

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