Rusedski faces stiff challenge

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The Independent Online

Greg Rusedski has been handed the toughest possible start to his challenge for the Samsung Open, which begins today in Nottingham.

Rusedski, handed a wild card for the event, has been paired with top-seeded American Jan-Michael Gambill, who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year. The British No 2 won the tournament in 1997 and has a telling task ahead if he is to repeat that success and exorcise the ghosts of last week's Queen's Club defeat to Lleyton Hewitt.

Lee Childs, another British wild card, also faces a tough opener against French clay-court specialist Fabrice Santoro. But the Somerset teenager, who reached the third round of his first ATP Tour event in Brighton last November, believes recent experience will stand him in good stead.

"Playing at Queen's on centre court against Magnus Norman was a good experience and it really showed me what I have to do to be up there with those guys," Childs said.

"Obviously, if you could pick your perfect draw it wouldn't be him. Santoro is a tricky player, he fiddles you around a bit but he's not the guy that's going to blast me off the court so hopefully I can get in the match and give him some trouble."

Childs is desperate for some good preparation ahead of the premier grass-court event at SW19, having received the news on his 19th birthday last week that he has been handed a Wimbledon wild card.

"You can never expect anything but I was hoping I might get in," he said. "Every British tennis player wants to play Wimbledon. I've played well over the last year and this year and I feel I deserve it. I will go out there and give it 100 per cent."

Jamie Delgado, the third British wild card, starts off against the AmericanJeff Tarango, while Barry Cowan has also qualified for the final stages of the tournament for the fourth successive year. The American teenager Andy Roddick continues his recuperation from the injury which forced him out of the French Open when he faces the Swiss Marc Rosset in a battle of big servers.

The two-time finalist Byron Black of Zimbabwe starts against Germany's David Prinosil while the former champion Jonas Bjorkman meets Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic.

* In Uzbekistan, the German Bianka Lamade overcame a leg injury to win her first WTA title by beating the Dutchwoman Seda Noorlander 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in the final of the Tashkent Open yesterday.

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