Rich pickings for Rusedski

GREG RUSEDSKI, the man who came into Munich through a side door, stands to collect more than £800,000 if he wins the CompaqGrand Slam Cup men's title this afternoon. Rusedski, who got into the 12-man field only because four of the original qualifiers withdrew or wereruled out by injury, sailed through to the richest payday of his life by beating Andrei Medvedev of the Ukraine 6-3 3-6 7-6 7-5 in last night'ssemi-finals. In the final he will face the 21-year-old Florida-based German, Tommy Haas, a 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-4 winner over the Swede ThomasEnqvist.

GREG RUSEDSKI, the man who came into Munich through a side door, stands to collect more than £800,000 if he wins the CompaqGrand Slam Cup men's title this afternoon. Rusedski, who got into the 12-man field only because four of the original qualifiers withdrew or wereruled out by injury, sailed through to the richest payday of his life by beating Andrei Medvedev of the Ukraine 6-3 3-6 7-6 7-5 in last night'ssemi-finals. In the final he will face the 21-year-old Florida-based German, Tommy Haas, a 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-4 winner over the Swede ThomasEnqvist.

Even if he ends up on the losing end in the final, Rusedski will collect £420,000. But he insisted last night that he was not in Munich forthe money.

"Most of the guys playing here have reasonable bank accounts. It is nice to get the pay cheque but we are out there for the competition." Possibly,but it is indisputable that the money will come in useful for his wedding to Lucy Connor on 4 December.

Rusedski slammed 26 aces, some of them in the 140mph range, in his two hour 21 minute victory and it was this sustained assault whicheventually wore down one of the most elegant strokemakers in the game. The British left- hander came out of the starting gate as if jet-propelled,swept through the first five games in 10 minutes and fended off Medvedev's counter-attack to take the opening set in 21 minutes. By then he hadalready aced the Ukrainian 10 times.

In his baggy plaid shorts, Medvedev does not inspire visions of extreme athleticism but he hits the ball quite beautifully, if given the time, and onceRusedski's initial fury had subsided a little, he got back into the match. An early break of serve was enough to secure the second set for him andlevel the match with 54 minutes played.

As Rusedski pressed to regain his earlier domination and Medvedev battled to hold him off there were some wonderful shots. Once, a net cordsent Rusedski the wrong way but somehow he twirled around to get his racket on the ball and so startled his opponent that he won the point.When Rusedski's fifth double-fault cost him another service break in the third game of the third set he seemed in trouble but, as he said later, hewas able to lift his level another notch, despite Medvedev's upsetting antics to keep the crowd amused, as well as firmly on his side.

The crucial break-back to pull Rusedski level at 4-4 came as Medvedev, trying to keep his opponent away from the net, sent a backhand into thetramlines. That was enough to push the set into a tie-break, but what promised to be a fraught time for the British player turned into a cakewalk astwo simple errors and some fine, aggressive volleying from Rusedski, won him the tie-break by seven points to one.

If he was in peril, Medvedev did not show it, chatting to a security guard and a soft drinks attendant at the changeovers and often looking up at thegiant TV replay screen above the court to check how he had won a point. But those winning opportunities became fewer and Rusedski tightenedhis grip.

Greg missed three break points early in the fourth set but the next time an opening came his way he seized it and rammed home the advantage. At5-5 a wild forehand from Medvedev gave Rusedski two more break points, at which the Ukrainian promptly double-faulted. Needing to serve outfor the match, he did it in style, rounding out his victory with the 26th ace.

So Rusedski has done much to restore the confidence so badly damaged by his dramatic collapse against Todd Martin at the US Open. Heestimated his confidence level was up by 60 per cent even since last week's Davis Cup tie against South Africa.

Medvedev, who said he had tweaked his back during the warm-up, did not begin to feel comfortable until he was one set down but he had nocomplaints about the result. "I still think that beating Richard Krajicek in the previous round was a miracle," he said. "I played well throughout thematch but tennis is about a couple of points. On Friday I won them, today Greg won them. But Greg is serving well, it is going to be aninteresting final."

It certainly promises to be, since Haas, making his debut at the event, had 19 aces and is almost as big a server as Rusedski. Haas has maturedswiftly this year and is ranked 11th in the world. Only his cap, worn firmly back to front, betrays his youth and he will be as heavily supported inthe final as he was yesterday. The square-jawed Enqvist proved a tough adversary but the supreme quality of the Haas ground strokes, particularlyhis arrowed efforts down the line, eventually got the better of the Swede.

Boris Becker is Haas's idol, and he is the first German to play in this dollar-laden event since Becker won it in 1996. Boris will be available forany help, if needed before the final, he said. Even good fortune seemed to be with Haas; he got a couple of lucky breaks on poor line calls againstEnqvist and when, in frustration, he uttered an obscenity in English, in violation of the code of conduct, the British umpire Mike Morrissey tookno action.

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