Rusedski confirms new-found resilience

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The Independent Online

Greg Rusedski became the first British winner of the Heineken Open since Roger Taylor in 1970 when he recorded a three-set victory over Jerome Golmard in Auckland on Saturday. The sixth seed claimed a 6-7, 6-4, 7-5 victory over his French opponent.

Rusedski had to come from behind having lost the first set on a tie-break following a rain delay, which had forced the players off court with the score 6-5 in Rusedski's favour. But the British No 2 displayed a new-found resilience, breaking Golmard's serve in the third game of the second set and holding on to the break to level the match.

The deciding set was another tight affair, but Rusedski once again managed to find the all-important break. But he failed to make his advantage count and allowed Golmard to break back in the very next game. However, Rusedski held his nerve and managed to break Golmard again for 6-5 and served out the match at 7-5.

"Having three-set matches every round, nothing surprised me when I dropped a set," Rusedski said. "I just raise my level when I get behind in a tough match. Whenever I've needed to lift, I've managed to lift and that is the key."

Pete Sampras sent out an ominous warning before the Australian Open by beating Andre Agassi 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 in the final of the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne. "That was the perfect preparation. Two hours out there against a great player," said Sampras. "We both struggled with the windy conditions, but I felt I served pretty well out there. I feel like I am hitting the ball well, got through some pretty tough matches and am feeling great."

Agassi started well, breaking in the first game when Sampras nudged a volley beyond the baseline. But Sampras hit back when Agassi served for the set, levelling for 5-5 and then winning the tie-break 8-6 with some accurate serving and incisive volleying.

Agassi, who trails Sampras 18-14 in head-to-head matches, played himself back into the match by winning a second-set tie-break by the same score. But a single break in the second game of the deciding set was all Sampras needed to wrap up victory in an hour and 45 minutes.

There was a Swiss double in the Sydney International, with Martina Hingis clinching back-to-back Sydney titles with a 6-2, 6-3 win over the No 8 seed Meghann Shaughnessy and Roger Federer – her Hopman Cup-winning partner last year – taking the men's title.

It was Hingis's first title in 11 months and a first finals appearance since April last year for the former world No 1. Hingis dropped just one set en route to the championship in her first tournament back after three months on the sidelines with an ankle injury. "I think I surprised everyone by coming back and winning this tournament, but I surprised myself the most," she said. "I feel good."

The 21-year-old Swiss withdrew from Friday's doubles final after suffering heat exhaustion and aching legs in her singles semi-final win over Kim Clijsters. But she showed no signs of pain in the final, dominating at the net and hitting 22 winners.

Hingis broke in the second game and had a 3-0 lead before Shaughnessy held serve. The former No 1 did not miss a first serve in the first set, securing it on a service break in the eighth game. The match was all over in 58 minutes when Shaughnessy sent a backhand long to give Hingis match point and then put her next backhand into the net.

Federer secured his second career ATP Tour title with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Juan Ignacio Chela at the Sydney International. The second seed wrapped up proceedings in just 50 minutes against the Argentinian, who was attempting to become the first qualifier ever to win the tournament. Chela, who was banned for three months after testing positive for nandrolone last year, immediately found himself on the back foot as Federer imposed his authority from the baseline.

* Serena Williams was due to play Conchita Martinez at the Australian Open last night after tournament officials refused her request to delay her first-round match until today to help her recover from an ankle injury.