Greg Rusedski spearheaded a triumphant day for the British at the Samsung Open here yesterday, eliminating the No 1 seed Jan-Michael Gambill in straight sets, 7-6, 7-6. The British No 2's victory over the American, founded on his trademark big serve and bolstered by some fine returns and volleys, was the fourth home success of the day, following wins by Jamie Delgado, Arvind Parmar and Martin Lee.
"I was really happy with the way I played," Rusedski said. "My volleys and returns were solid. I was moving well around the net and I was pleased with that. And when I had my chances I took them, which is important on grass because you don't get that many. When push came to shove in the tie-breaks, it clicked. Things are getting better with every match."
The turning point came with the first-set tie-break standing at 5-5 and Rusedski serving. Gambill had a mini-break to move to 6-5 and set point but Rusedski held his nerve to break back. The next point, a mini-break for the Briton, was won with one of several powerful, pinpoint forehand shots down the line before Rusedski held for 8-6.
The second set saw one break apiece as the score progressed to six games each before Rusedski won the second tie-break comfortably, 7-1. He now faces Rainer Schuettler of Germany in the second round today, although he already has one eye on Wimbledon, where he deems his first-round tie against Andrei Pavel of Romania "a very winnable match".
"I'm not seeded and I don't deserve to be seeded [at Wimbledon]," he said. "But that means I now have a totally different approach. Last year I wasn't healthy, now I am. I'm fit, I have a great team around me. My preparations are going great. Things are going very, very well but it's one match at a time."
Gambill, who spent Monday evening at the cinema watching Pearl Harbour before turning up to face Rusedski's arsenal, was gracious in defeat, although critical of the way he had handled the key moments of the afternoon.
"I don't think I could have had a tougher draw," he said. "Greg should have been seeded but injuries [over the past year] meant that he wasn't. It came down to two tie-breakers." Of Rusedski's chances in SW19, he added: "Anyone who doesn't regard him as a danger is a fool. When a guy serves as big as Greg, he always has a great chance."
Yesterday's other upset by a Briton came courtesy of Delgado, the British No 5 and world No 196, who produced a spirited comeback to see off the American Jeff Tarango in three sets, 2-6, 7-6, 6-3. He now faces the No 7 seed, Israel's Harel Levy, in the second round.
Parmar, the British No 4 who came through qualifying here, defeated a fellow qualifier, Jonathan Stark of America, in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. He now faces his compatriot, Martin Lee, who yesterday beat another Briton, Lee Childs, also in three sets, 6-4, 5-7, 6-0.
* In Den Bosch, in the Netherlands, the Australian Pat Rafter failed in his bid for a fourth consecutive Heineken Trophy title with a first round 7-5, 6-4 exit to the Dutchman Peter Wessels. Rafter was never able to find his rhythm against Wessels, a serve-and-volley specialist whose only career title came on grass last year at Newport.Reuse content