Rusedski's rejection of past has Canada in two minds

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The Independent Online

There is only one match in town grabbing the attention of the world today and it has nothing to do with the legendary Sampras, the resurgent Capriati, the whizz-kid Hewitt or the plucky exploits of contenders born in Britain. It is, of course, the tantalising tie between Goran "I'm in three minds about that" Ivanisevic and Greg "C'mon, you Arsenal" Rusedski.

A straw poll of the opinions of journalists from the players' countries of birth reveals some flavour of their reports over the weekend.

"I sense a general feeling that people don't want Sampras to win this year," said Tom Tebbutt of Canada's Toronto Globe and Mail. "If Ivanisevic wins it, it's a fantastic story, or if Rafter does it in his last year. Or Lleyton Hewitt coming through as a young guy. Or either of the Brits."

And just how British do Canadians rate Greg Rusedski's nationality? "Greg is Canadian in terms of tennis, no question," Tebbutt said. "He came to Britain later and his game blossomed but anyone who's lived in Canada until he's 20 is Canadian."

Is Canada backing its prodigal then? "He's handled the whole transition to Britain abysmally," Tebbutt said. "He's never acknowledged Canada or his life there with any graciousness. Canada resents that. He's never admitted that he's part Canadian. He's repudiated his past. And I'm someone who's not hostile to him."

Tebbutt believes that "Our Greg" is, first and foremost, "a curiosity" in the land of his birth. "There's so much resentment towards him, I don't know what the reaction [to his Wimbledon exploits] will be."

For the record, Tebbutt thinks the player's 0-8 record against Ivanisevic might even give him the edge today, because he will be looking for that elusive win, not dwelling on past defeats.

There is no such equivocation in Croatia. "I've got to go for Goran," said Neven Berticevic, of the Sportske Novosti newspaper, when asked who he will be tipping today.

"Because if they both play to their full potential, he will win, because he is simply the better player." He added: "I can't remember him playing as well as he did against Andy Roddick on Thursday since the 1998 Wimbledon final he lost to Sampras. I can't remember him serving four sets in a row as well as that, ever.

"And he seems very relaxed. He's been coming here year after year with a huge burden on his shoulders because he reached the semi-final in 1990 as an 18-year-old and everyone's kept on asking 'When are you going to win?'

"The last couple of years the results have been not so good, he has relaxed and the pressure has been less."