Rusedski keeps smiling after semi-final flop

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The Independent Online

Greg Rusedski was eliminated from the Samsung Open at the penultimate hurdle here yesterday, beaten in straight sets, 7-6, 6-3, in the semi-final by Thomas Johansson of Sweden.

To say that the Briton went out with not such much with a bang as with whimper would be an understatement. He allowed two set points in the opening set to go begging and there was precious little consistency in his trademark big serve. Although he improved slightly in the second set after going 4-0 down, his thoughts had apparently already turned to Wimbledon. Extra rest, rather than a second tour title of the season, seemed the priority. He hinted as much in his post-match interview.

"I'm not disappointed," the British No 2 said. "I said before today that I was already happy with my Wimbledon preparations. I've got two days off now, so I can going down to London and get ready for Monday. Sure, it would have been nice to be in the final, but in retrospect I can't say I'm disappointed to have the extra day off. It might even have done me a favour for Wimbledon."

"Having said that, Johansson came up with the breaks and the passing shots and he deserved to win." Rusedski's final words – before a departure that was a little too smiley for someone who was genuinely aggrieved at his loss – were: "I'm healthy, fit, feeling great, strong, and I'm ready for the Championships."

Johansson now faces the No7 seed, Harel Levy of Israel, in the final. On yesterday's evidence – which saw Levy beat the 18-year-old American prodigy, Andy Roddick, in three sets, 7-6, 5-7, 6-3 – the Swede could be in for a tough examination. Levy produced a marvellous all-court display, notable especially for its powerful groundstrokes and spinning drop shots, on his way to victory.

It was clearly not Roddick's day –"It's all about big points. I needed to be taking the break points and I didn't" – but Levy came up with some shots that any opponent would have struggled with. At one stage, he even provoked Roddick into prostrating himself on the court, where he proceeded to worship with outstretched arms in Levy's direction. Extravagant, perhaps, but then Levy had just gone to 40-0 on Roddick's serve, courtesy of three thundering cross-court passes. Levy closed out the match on the next point.

"He'd produced three running passing shots in a row," Roddick said, explaining his histrionics. "My approach play hadn't been bad. He just came up with power and speed and there was nothing I could do about it at all."

Roddick added that, despite the result, he had been pleased with his week overall. "I got four matches in, against tough opponents, and I made the semi. That's not so bad having never played a match on grass before Queen's [last week]. I feel good. The more matches I play, the better I feel."

Levy, who beat the South African Wayne Ferreira in the quarter-finals and Britain's Jamie Delgado in the second round, said he had been pleased with his performance. "I played some of my best tennis out there. It's always great to be in a final," the 22-year-old said. Today's final is the second of his career, after Toronto last year, when he lost to Marat Safin. Roddick follows Pete Sampras (at the Italian Open) and Tim Henman (in Scottsdale) in being among Levy's scalps so far this season.

"Now I'm playing Johansson, who's in good form," he said, adding that he would not be unduly worried by a slight hip injury, sustained yesterday.

Johansson, who is looking for back-to-back titles after winning in Halle last week, said he will give his all today, despite several niggling injuries. "I think it's going to be a long match, with a lot of baseline rallies," he said. After the final it's Wimbledon, and then it'll be time to rest."

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