Rusedski shows fighting spirit

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Greg Rusedski today admitted he "did not feel very proud" after evoking memories of the feisty days of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors with a heated and prolonged bust-up at the US Open.

The British number one was docked a point penalty for smashing a ball in anger at a linesman in a tempestuous second round victory over Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman.

The ball hit the startled linejudge in the upper thigh and Aussie umpire Denis Overberg ruled that it was "unsportsmanlike behaviour".

Rusedski had already received a code violation warning for racket abuse after hurling his racket across the court in frustration at losing a third set tie-break.

There followed pandemonium with the New York crowd jeering and slow-handclapping and loving every minute of the night-time aggravation as play was delayed for five minutes in the fourth set with the score 3-0 to Bjorkman while Rusedski continued a heated row with the umpire which was sprinkled with choice adjectives.

When the referee arrived he sided with the umpire, ruling Rusedski's swipe "dangerous".

The penalty stood but the Brit, pumped up by the surge of adrenaline, won the next game before going on to win the set on a tie-break and take a dramatic match of the highest quality 7-5 7-5 6-7 7-6.

Bjorkman, too, had his moments, threatening to go into the crowd to sort out a woman spectator who he claimed was distracting him on his first serve.

But while Rusedski today was full of contrition he admitted that his petulance had been instrumental in winning the match.

"I felt it was a little bit unjust," said Rusedski. "Fair enough I hit the guy. No intention of doing that. He was out of his position when he moved.

"And it was on the bounce. If I hit him on the fly I'd say: 'Give me the point penalty. I'm guilty as charged. I deserve it'.

"I felt it was harsh. But that's the ruling. The referee came on the court saying: 'I'm not changing it'. So I got up and played and that was it.

"I think after that I behaved like a proper boy out there. I thought after that point penalty it was time to settle down, it was time to move on and get everything out.

"Sometimes you have to do that. I don't feel very proud of that but it got me through the match tonight. I guess I'm in America, New York City, John McEnroe's town.

"I really needed to get it out of my system. First warning fair enough, I chucked my racket. It slid on the ground. It was a little bit violent. Give me the warning. I'm not complaining about that.

"Second one I had a forehand, I crack it, it lands in the court, hits the line judge, just unlucky.

"But I think it helped me. I could empty my mind and it worked well. But I'd rather handle it better next time to be honest with you."

As it happened, Rusedski regrouped in remarkable fashion to claw back the set and the match on a final tie-break and admitted he was urged on by the memory of his devastating loss here against Todd Martin in the fourth round two years ago, when he was two sets up and then 4-1 in the fifth but still conspired to throw the match.

"I knew he was going to get a little tight serving for the fourth set at 5-3 and I really took advantage of that," said Rusedski.

"So for me it was a good win because I lost that tough one to Todd Martin which absolutely killed me. This is only going to give me confidence because not a lot of guys return as well as Bjorkman does."

Rusedski now has a tough match against Argentina's Mariano Zabaleta, who dismissed American young gun Taylor Dent impressively in straight sets 6-3 6-3 6-4.

But the tense and dramatic Rusedski affair, by far the most thrilling match so far in this tournament, also kept alive hopes of a juicy battle of Britain in the Big Apple.

Tim Henman, Britain's number one, had earlier dispatched Fernando Meligeni of Brazil 6-3 6-4 3-6 6-4 to earn an intriguing third round clash with Xavier Malisse, now coached by Henman's former aide David Felgate.

If Rusedski and Henman both triumph they will meet for the first time in a Grand Slam in a fourth round showdown on Monday.

Henman, however, was today busy trying to play down the significance of Felgate's role in his third round clash.

"Being a professional, it's a match between me and Malisse," said Henman. "Sure, David knows my game better than most, doesn't he, but that's not what I'm going to be concentrating on. I feel I know a little bit about Malisse. I'll just have to try and influence my game.

"At this level there are not too many hidden secrets. Most of the top guys play each other week in and week out and practise with each other. I don't think Malisse will expect me to stay on the baseline for instance.

"But I know the way to approach any match is to concentrate on what I'm doing. If I'm worried about what my opponent is doing then my concentration isn't where it's meant to be and that will affect my performance."

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