Rusedski struggles to find his feet on grass

Greg Rusedski reminded himself of a feeling he had missed for the best - or should that be worst - part of a year here yesterday as he earned his first win in more than nine months.

That the match, in the first round of the Surbiton Trophy, was on grass bodes well for the Briton's hopes of making an impression at Wimbledon later this month after a dismal run of injuries that caused him - albeit fleetingly - to consider retiring.

After taking 75 minutes to defeat the 182nd-ranked Rik De Voest 7-6, 6-4 in what was only the South African's third match on grass, the 30-year-old naturalised Canadian was taking a severely realistic view of his prospects in SW19.

The sun shone brightly on a crowd of around a couple of hundred spectators including his wife Lucy, but Rusedski knew well enough that not everything in his garden had suddenly turned rosy in what was only his second match since he departed the US Open last September carrying a foot injury that required an operation. A further operation was required on his knee, and when he was forced to withdraw from a Challenger tournament in Zagreb earlier this month because of neck and shoulder problem the thought of giving up briefly occurred to him.

"It was only for about five seconds, but after the third injury I did think to myself: 'Why is this happening to me?' It was the gods having a little bit of fun with me and at that stage I was extremely frustrated, but then I thought: 'No. I've got a good job, so why don't I keep it?'''

Despite losing in the first round of the French Open last week he regarded the experience of being able to finish a match with his body intact as "a big hurdle".

Yesterday's experience, his first victory since he beat Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan in a five-setter on 31 August last year, was another hurdle accomplished, but Rusedski believes that time is running out for him in the build-up to Wimbledon.

"I don't think there should be too great an expectation on myself this year. Maybe the US Open next year will be a more realistic target for me. But who knows - if I can manage to get a few matches here and at Queen's and at Nottingham in the next couple of weeks you never can tell.''

Rusedski's affable manner wavered a little when he was asked how his plight compared to that of the other Great British hope for Wimbledon, Tim Henman, who struggled with a shoulder injury in the New Year. "You can't compare the two, they are like night and day,'' Rusedski said. "I've had two surgeries different from his. He could still do some work on the court. It is like apples and oranges, you can't really compare them.''

In the meantime, Rusedski is concentrating his attentions on today's match with Scott Draper, where he has a number of very specific targets in mind after a match where his 10 aces were balanced by seven double-faults: "A higher first-serve percentage, less double-faults and better shot selection.''

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