Rusedski reveals raw courage to win battle of the tie-breaks

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The Independent Online

Greg Rusedski reached the semi-finals of the Kremlin Cup here yesterday with a tense three-set win, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, over the US Open semi-finalist, Joachim Johansson.

Greg Rusedski reached the semi-finals of the Kremlin Cup here yesterday with a tense three-set win, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, over the US Open semi-finalist, Joachim Johansson.

The British No 2 took the first set 7-5 on the tie-break, but was pegged back in the second set by the 22-year-old Swede, who levelled the match by taking the second set 7-1 on a tie-break.

The third set also went to a tie-break and Rusedski, who has become a shoot-out specialist because so many of his matches involve tie-breaks, showed his skill and courage when it mattered.

Johansson went 4-0 ahead, but the 31-year-old Briton fought back to level at 5-5 and saved a match point before winning a titanic battle, holding his nerve to take the final tie-break 9-7 and register a heartening success over the second seed.

"We were fighting from the first ball till the last ball... with every match I'm getting better and my standards are improving," said Rusedski.

This was a match totally dominated by the players' big serves. Rusedski sent down a total of 32 aces, while the Swede hit 33. There were no breaks of serve in the match. The British No 2 now meets either the Russian Igor Kunitsyn or Dominik Hrbaty, of Slovakia, in the semi-finals of the indoor competition.

In the women's event, there was great joy for the home crowd when the unseeded Russian Elena Bovina upset an error-prone Venus Williams in their quarter-final yesterday. Bovina defeated the No 7 seed 6-3, 6-2 in 61 minutes to advance to the semi-finals.

Bovina opened strongly, breaking Williams with a precise cross-court backhand in the first game of the opening set and maintained a remorseless grip on the match as the American hit 10 double-faults and committed 29 unforced errors.

"I wouldn't say it was easy. I opened well and my task was not to allow her to get into her game. I did it," said Bovina.

Williams' rueful summing-up was: "My serve wasn't there the way I wanted it to be today."

Bovina will face her compatriot Elena Dementieva, who overcame yet another Russian, Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-1, 6-3. Dementieva, who lost to Kuznetsova in this year's US Open final, gained some revenge yesterday, winning five consecutive games in the first set.

"I drew conclusions from the match in New York. It was necessary for me today to seize the initiative, as she always starts strongly, hitting the ball hard," said Dementieva.

The new world No 1, Lindsay Davenport, defeated Francesca Schiavone, of Italy, 6-4, 6-1, the American securing her place in the semi-finals against the French Open and defending Kremlin Cup champion, Anastasia Myskina, who came back from a set down to defeat her countrywoman Vera Zonareva, 4-6, 6-0, 7-5.

In the men's CA Trophy in Vienna yesterday, the Olympic champion, Nicolas Massu of Chile, was surprisingly beaten, 6-4, 6-3, by the Italian Davide Sanguinetti in the quarter-finals. The win took Sanguinetti to his first ATP semi-final this season as Massu suffered a major setback in his aim to qualify for the season-ending Masters Cup in Houston.

In the opening set, Sanguinetti bemused Massu, the No 2 seed, with his subtle angles and softly hit shots. Breaking the No 2 seed twice early in the second set, the Italian pulled away to a 3-0 lead. The Chilean produced a large number of unforced errors and the longer the match went on, the more irritable he became. It was Sanguinetti's first win over the Olympic champion.

* Fashion models will replace volunteer ball-boys and ball-girls at next week's Madrid Masters. The models apparently had to undergo a week's special training tournament under a scheme devised by the fashion designer, Hugo Boss.