Rusedski already relishing retirement

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Egg and bacon have never tasted better. Having announced his retirement immediately after securing Britain's Davis Cup victory over the Netherlands by winning his doubles with Jamie Murray on Saturday, Greg Rusedski was quick to take advantage of his new status as a former tennis player. "I had a nice full cooked breakfast this morning," he said yesterday. "I don't need to worry about training any more. I'm just getting on with my new life."

There could not have been a more fitting final stage. A mainstay of Britain's Davis Cup team since his debut in 1995, 33-year-old Rusedski partnered one of the country's new generation in what proved to be the decisive rubber here. He hit the winning shot with the sort of backhand volley that always made him one of the best exponents of serve-and-volley tennis.

For a player who needed time to win over the British public after spending the first 17 years of his life in Canada - his mother was born in Yorkshire but later moved to Canada, where she married his Ukrainian-born father - the Davis Cup has always been important to Rusedski. It gave him a way of showing that the Union Jack bandanna he wore at Wimbledon in 1995, the year he got his British passport, was not a flag of convenience.

If Rusedski has occasionally in the past seemed overkeen to demonstrate his Britishness, today nobody can doubt his allegiances. He lives in London with his British-born wife and daughter, supports Arsenal, loves James Bond films and is looking forward to enjoying a few more pints in the pub. He has not made any decisions on a new career but would love a role working with young British players.

Rusedski said his two main regrets were failing to win a Grand Slam tournament or a match in the Davis Cup World Group. Nevertheless, no British player has come closer to achieving the former since John Lloyd reached the Australian Open final 30 years ago.

Rusedski's achievement in becoming the first Briton to play in the US Open final since Fred Perry in 1936 was the highlight of his career. He lost in four sets to Pat Rafter in 1997 in a match which went unnoticed in some quarters as it was played on the weekend of Princess Diana's funeral.

Rusedski regards his 1998 victory over Pete Sampras in the Paris Masters indoor final as his greatest performance but said his semi-final defeat of Jonas Bjorkman over five sets at the US Open the previous year best summed up his qualities.

"It was such a yo-yo match and at the end I found a way to get to the final, winning it 7-5 when he was serving to go to a tie-breaker in the deciding set," he said. "My career is probably more like a five-setter where I find a way to win on the last ball than the Federer-esque sort of final against Sampras."

If his backhand was always a weakness, Rusedski's huge serve - he once held the record for the fastest in the game - booming forehand and confident volleys made him a formidable opponent. He was the most ferocious of competitors and won matches even when struggling to find his best form.

Rusedski won 15 tournaments (five on grass), 436 singles matches and nearly $8,944,841 (about £4.6m) in prize-money, but did not always play his best at Wimbledon. His best performance at the tournament was in 1997, when he lost to Cedric Pioline in the quarter-finals. That was also the year he was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year. "I think that's when the public really accepted me for who I was," he said yesterday.

Rusedski reached No 4 in the world in 1997 and made a spirited comeback after dropping out of the world's top 150 three years ago following a drugs controversy. His lawyers successfully proved at a tribunal, at a personal cost to Rusedski of about £400,000, that he (and seven other players) had tested positive for small traces of a banned steroid because of contaminated supplements they had been given by official ATP sources.

The player alongside whom Rusedski will always be remembered is Tim Henman. Their careers followed remarkable parallels, even down to being born on the same date (Rusedski is 12 months older), wedding within a week of each other and marrying women called Lucy. Both reached No 4 in the world and believe their rivalry was beneficial to each other.

While Henman and Rusedski have never been close, they regularly joined forces to good effect in the Davis Cup and their mutual respect is evident. Henman was one of the first to shake his colleague's hand after his doubles victory on Saturday. "He just said, 'Congratulations, well done and enjoy the rest of your life'," Rusedski said.