Rusedski's sights set on Martin

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The Independent Online

IT TOOK Greg Rusedski four days to get the opportunity to hit a ball at the Eurocard Open here. The British No 1 immediately soared into the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 6-3 win. He dealt Germany's Tommy Haas one of the most miserly service performances of his career: eight points, with none in the opening set.

IT TOOK Greg Rusedski four days to get the opportunity to hit a ball at the Eurocard Open here. The British No 1 immediately soared into the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 6-3 win. He dealt Germany's Tommy Haas one of the most miserly service performances of his career: eight points, with none in the opening set.

Waiting for Grego was well worthwhile. Now we are waiting eagerly for Grego and Toddo, today's renewal of the Rusedski-Todd Martin rivalry that has had such a profound affect on the season.

Martin not only defeated Rusedski in three straight sets on the opening day of Britain's dramatic Davis Cup tie against the Americans in Birmingham at Easter, but also recovered from two sets and 3-5 down against Rusedski in the fourth round of the United States Open, retrieving a 1-4 deficit to win the fifth set.

Having felt "a bit scattered" on that occasion in New York, Martin affirms, with a grimace, the reviving powers of a towel soaked in ammonia. He also agrees with Haas's assessment of Rusedski as "probably one of the most - if not the most - dangerous indoor players in the world right now".

Setting aside the Davis Cup match as a special event, demanding more than the customary court skills - "There was much more going on than the tennis there, and I got off to a good start" - Martin said: "It's hard to think of anyone else more dangerous than Greg indoors. There's his serve and athleticism, and at this time of year he always seems more alert and keen to give it a go."

On the other hand, Martin has a 15-0 record against left-handers this year.

Rusedski, inactive since defeating Germany's Nicolas Kiefer to win the Vienna title 11 days earlier, was given a bye in the first round in Stuttgart and a walk-over in the second round after Sweden's Magnus Larsson injured his back.

Fears that the No 5 seed may have lost his patience, if not his edge, waiting to turn practice into match action, proved to be unfounded as soon as Rusedski started to swing his racket. He won all 20 points on his serve in the first set, but found Haas in a stubborn mood when it came to converting break points.

Rusedski created 10 opportunities; Haas resisted. "Tommy came up with some good shots," Rusedski said. "I think I made him play eight out of the 10 break points. One of them, I hit a volley an inch from the baseline; he flipped it down the line." Haas was unable to delay the one-sided set beyond 39 minutes. Serving at 4-5, 0-40, he missed a backhand on the first set point.

The second set opened with the novelty of Rusedski dropping four points on serve, rousing the subdued spectators to roar on their man and cheer when Rusedski failed to find the target. Rusedski broke for 3-1, and managed to hold his nerve after Haas became agitated about a couple of line calls.

"The game that was really important for me was at 4-2 in the second set," Rusedski said. "At 15-30, I got a let cord which helped me to get to 30-30 and win that game. The crowd had started to get into it, cheering a little bit when I missed my first serve, asking for double-faults in German. If I would have lost that game, the match could have got interesting."

Haas, who was defeated by Rusedski in the final of the Compaq Grand Slam Cup in Munich, stood to overtake Tim Henman in ninth place in the race for the ATP Tour Championship in Hanover with a win yesterday. Now the German may miss the rest of the season recuperating from a viral infection.

With so many players afflicted by ailments, the good news is that Pete Sampras intends to be in Paris next week to play his first tournament since 20 August, having recovered from hip and back injuries.

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