Rusedski out but Marray glitters in the sunshine

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The Independent Online

Having just recovered from the extraordinary achievement of seeing Tim Henman reach the semi-finals of the French Open, British tennis enthusiasts were treated to more reality-stretching experiences as the Stella Artois Championships got under way here yesterday.

Having just recovered from the extraordinary achievement of seeing Tim Henman reach the semi-finals of the French Open, British tennis enthusiasts were treated to more reality-stretching experiences as the Stella Artois Championships got under way here yesterday.

The sun shone, warming the Pimms almost to boiling point, and where the British pretenders are often reduced to another six days on the practise court after a fruitless day of competition, one actually walked off with an unlikely victory.

Unfortunately, it wasn't Greg Rusedski, who desperately needs a win on the ATP Tour, where his victories this year total exactly one. That came in Sydney in early January, days after the drugs controversy exploded around him. He put his career on hold until he was cleared by a tribunal of what he yesterday described as "that rubbish", but he has made no progress since he returned.

Yesterday, he lost 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Hyung-Taik Lee, a South Korean who accomplished one of the most bizarre results of 2003 when he defeated Juan Carlos Ferrero to win the Sydney event. He has achieved little since, and lost to Rusedski last week in Surbiton. Hopes were high as Rusedski broke and then led 3-0, but there was little rhythm to his game as Lee exploited the holes with a steadier performance.

"I was fighting from the first ball to the last, but things weren't working the way I'd like them to," said Rusedski, who will now seek a wild card for Nottingham next week. "I need to tighten up on some service games. There were a few too many double faults and I wasn't moving as well as I'd like. I know what I need to do, but it's not happening."

There was a British win, though. Jonathan Marray, from Sheffield but now based at Queen's, was offered a wild card and responded by beating the experienced Belgian Christophe Rochus 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. It was the best victory of his career and closely follows two tournament victories at minor events in Uzbekistan.

He competed well and refused to concede after losing a break late in the final set. His game plan was to attack at every opportunity, and it worked. Rather worryingly, though, when asked what he had to do to take the next step up the ladder he had no idea and referred such enquiries to his coach.

Arvind Parmar, who at this time of year is regularly called upon to demonstrate that he is out of his depth at major ATP events, was beaten 7-5, 1-6, 7-6 by Frank Dancevic, of Canada, who beat Rusedski to reach the Surbiton semi-finals last week.

Parmar is quite good at playing well for a while and then going away from a match empty-handed, and he carried on as usual, leading the first set 5-2 and the third 3-1 before conceding both.

After his defeat Rusedski learned that he has been given a Wimbledon wild card, along with his compatriots Jonathan Marray, Alex Bogdanovic and Lee Childs on the men's side, and Anne Keothavong, Amanda Janes, Elena Baltacha and Jane O'Donoghue on the women's.

Henman, meanwhile, began his grass court practise yesterday with sessions at both Wimbledon and Queen's. His performance at the French Open has put him up to fifth in the men's world rankings. The British No 1 entered the event at No 9 but has jumped four places after reaching the last four in Paris.

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