Rusedski hits out at ATP after defeat to Saulnier

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Greg Rusedski, unable to convert either of two match points, was defeated in five sets in the first round at the US Open here yesterday by Cyril Saulnier, of France. Afterwards, the British No 2 launched an attack against the ATP, the ruling body of the men's tour, for not helping him with wild cards as promised when he was exonerated of a drugs charge earlier this year.

Greg Rusedski, unable to convert either of two match points, was defeated in five sets in the first round at the US Open here yesterday by Cyril Saulnier, of France. Afterwards, the British No 2 launched an attack against the ATP, the ruling body of the men's tour, for not helping him with wild cards as promised when he was exonerated of a drugs charge earlier this year.

"I'm fed up with saying nothing about the situation when the ATP have not done anything to help me," said Rusedski, whose request for wild cards for tournaments in Washington DC and Long Island en route to the US Open was ignored. "I've tried to talk to Mark Miles [the ATP's chief executive] but he says it is up to the tournaments."

Saulnier, ranked No 62 in the world, had defeated Rusedski in straight sets in their only previous meeting, in Adelaide in January, shortly before news broke of Rusedski's positive test for nandrolone. Rusedski, who was later cleared by an independent tribunal, has been trying to rebuild his game ever since. He had to wait until after Wimbledon for his first title of the season, in Newport, Rhode Island, and arrived in New York ranked No 91.

Although many observers consider Rusedski to be fortunate to have escaped suspension, he has reached the stage of his career when he is fighting against time as well as eager young opponents. "I have something in mind if the ATP doesn't get its act together," he said, declining to elaborate.

Next Monday the cream of British tennis will be decidedly mature. Rusedski turns 31 and Tim Henman will be 30. While not past their sell-by dates, freshness cannot be guaranteed. Henman is believed to still be carrying a back injury.

It seems an age since 1997, when we watched Rusedski battle his way through matches on outside courts here at the US Open to become the first man to represent Britain in a Grand Slam men's singles final since John Lloyd lost to Vitas Gerulaitis in Melbourne in 1977. Rusedski was defeated by Pat Rafter in the inaugural men's singles final in the towering Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Rusedski was back in the shadow of Ashe Stadium yesterday, striving to progress against Saulnier on Court 11. Rusedski held two match points in a fifth set tie-break, only to lose the shoot-out, 9-7, after two hours 55 minutes. Rusedski has not won a five-setter since the second round of the 2002 US Open.

There was no shortage of background noise, with aircraft from La Guardia flying over the court and a jazz guitarist strumming for spectators as they roamed the grounds, and Rusedski was first to lose concentration, double-faulting at 15-15 in the third game of the opening set, and then missing a backhand to offer his opponent two break points. Although Rusedski saved those with volleys, he missed a forehand to present Saulnier with a third opportunity, which the Frenchman converted with a backhand pass. Saulnier went on to take the set after 34 minutes.

Rusedski refused to be cowed, and a break for 4-2 enabled him to take the second set. Few points went Rusedski's way in the third set. Saulnier took a 3-0 lead before allowing Rusedski a game, and the Frenchman completed the set after only 21 minutes to take a 2-1 lead.

In Rusedski's prime, resilience and a big serve elevated him to No 4 in the world. The serve may not cause quite as much damage nowadays, but the fighting spirit still glimmers. He forced a fifth set, breaking Saulnier for 3-1 and saving a break point in the fifth game and two more in the seventh game. When it came to the tie-break, Rusedski led 6-5 and 7-6, only to be undone by Saulnier's sweeping backhand. The Frenchman finished with another backhand pass to convert his first match point and prevail 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6.

Alex Bogdanovic, the British No 4 and a qualifier, played the first five-set match of his career. The 20-year-old, a member of the Davis Cup squad for next month's World Group play-off in Austria, lost to Spain's Alex Calatrava 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Comments