Rusedski wins mental battle

GREG RUSEDSKI bounced back from two sets down, and saved a match point, to beat Germany's Nicolas Kiefer 6-7, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 and win his first ATP tournament of the year in the CA Trophy here yesterday.

GREG RUSEDSKI bounced back from two sets down, and saved a match point, to beat Germany's Nicolas Kiefer 6-7, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 and win his first ATP tournament of the year in the CA Trophy here yesterday.

Rusedski, the first British player to win this indoor tournament, had been a losing finalist here in 1997 to Goran Ivanisevic after being two sets up. "I told myself that, if Ivanisevic can do it to me, then I can do it to someone else," said Rusedski, who is expected to move up one place to sixth in the world rankings.

Last week in Basle, Rusedski complained Kiefer had employed "distracting and unsportsmanlike tactics" to defeat him in the quarter-finals. "He behaved really well today," Rusedski, the winner of the Grand Slam Cup two weeks ago, said. "But sometimes you have to play a bit ugly against him to get the win, because he is a very talented player.

"In the second set I was more mentally than physically exhausted. There I was dominating in all areas but just not getting the break."

Kiefer, who beat the world No 2 Yevgeny Kafelnikov and No 8 Richard Krajicek en route to his fifth final in 1999, said: "I had my chances but I didn't take them. In general, the disappointment is not that great, as I beat two top players this week." Kiefer fought off six break points to take the opening set to a tie-break, which he won 7-5, and achieved two breaks of his own in the second to go two sets up.

"I wasn't happy with some of the calls in the first set and I let it bother me in the second," Rusedski said. "But in the third I told myself to forget it and stay focused." In that third set, a double-fault by Kiefer allowed Rusedski to convert his 13th break point for a 3-1 lead and go on to take the set.

At 5-4 down in the fourth, Rusedski fought off a match point as Kiefer netted, after a thundering second serve by the Briton. Rusedski fired an ace and took the game to make it 5-5 before breaking the German's service to go 6-5 in front. Kiefer looked wobbly at the net, losing the next game and the set and then dropped his service at the start of the fifth set. Rusedski, who served more consistently than Kiefer and looked the fresher at the end of a match lasting 3hr and 41min, broke again for 5-2.

Although the German managed to break back, Rusedski was not to be denied. The 26-year-old committed a double fault on his first match point, but then hammered down his 31st ace of the match to secure victory in the Stadthalle.

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