Tennis: Rusedski joins the Williams millions

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The Independent Online

WHILE DELIGHTED to pocket $1.3m (£840,000), the biggest prize in tennis, after defeating Germany's Tommy Haas to winthe Compaq Grand Slam Cup here yesterday, Greg Rusedski genuinely seemed more impressed to be the first Britishrepresentative to hold a men's singles trophy linked to the world's four major championships since Fred Perry in 1936.

WHILE DELIGHTED to pocket $1.3m (£840,000), the biggest prize in tennis, after defeating Germany's Tommy Haas to winthe Compaq Grand Slam Cup here yesterday, Greg Rusedski genuinely seemed more impressed to be the first Britishrepresentative to hold a men's singles trophy linked to the world's four major championships since Fred Perry in 1936.

Underlining the point after receiving the Cup from John Curry, the Wimbledon chairman, Rusedski said: "It will be nice to put thison the mantlepiece. It's something I can show my kids when I'm older. But I'm working right now to make sure I'm fit to win a Slamnext year."

The mantlepiece at the Williams' home in Florida is overflowing, like the sisters' bank accounts. Serena, 18, who won her firstGrand Slam singles title at the United States Open three weeks ago, succeeded Venus, 19, as the women's Grand SlamCup-holder yesterday, defeating her in the final, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Serena won $900,000 including a $100,000 bonus for winning the US Open, and Venus received $400,000 as the runer-up.Having partnered each other to the US Open doubles title, the sisters have banked a total of $2.5m between them in the pastmonth.

Rusedski defeated Haas, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 - fending off the spectre of Todd Martin at the US Open in the process - to win his firsttournament since out-playing Pete Sampras in the final of the Paris Indoor Championships, one of the ATP Tour's Super 9 events,last November.

The jackpot from Munich's dollarfest, which boosted Rusedski's career prize money to $6.5m, is a timely wedding bonus for theBritish No 1 and his fiancee, Lucy Connor, who are due to marry on 4 December. It was won without 'phoning a friend andcertainly without seeking help from the audience - 12,000 Germans who were perfectly fair but simply bursting to roar Haas tovictory.

Rusedski only just managed to keep the lid on the Olympic Hall as Haas chipped away at his two-sets-to-love lead. Rusedskiadmitted Todd Martin's name flashed across his mind after nerves took hold of his racket when he was broken to love serving forthe match at 5-3 in the fourth set, having seen Haas whip away a match point with one of his majestic backhand passes in theprevious game.

"I thought about Todd Martin for a fraction of a second," Rusedski said. "I said to myself, 'I don't want that to happen to me again'."Unlike Martin, who recovered to win the their fourth-round match and advance to the US Open final, Haas was unable toprogress beyond a fourth-set tie-break.

Given how well Haas played to win the third set tie-break, 7-5, on his seventh set point (Rusedski saved the first four whenserving at 4-5 in the set), the spectators cleared their throats and prepared for a victory charge.

Haas won the first point of the second shoot-out, on Rusedski's serve, but then hit his first dodgy backhand, an approach shot thatlanded over the baseline. Rusedski levelled to 2-2 with his 29th ace - delivered at 142.5 mph - and was the beneficiary of asecond backhand error by Haas, at 3-2. Rusedski completed the job with a forehand drop volley on his fourth match point, for7-5, after two hours and 46 minutes.

Rusedski, who won $425,000 here in 1997, when he lost to Sampras in the semi-finals, qualified for the 12-man draw this timefrom 17th place because of withdrawals by Sampras, Pat Rafter, and Mark Philippoussis, who were injured, and Tim Henman andCedric Pioline, who chose to play in Toulouse instead, and Todd Martin, who decided not to make the trip from America.

"That's their choice," Rusedski said. "I'm happy they didn't come. It's like the year Andre Agassi pulled out (1990) and Brad Gilbert,now his coach, got all the way to the finals." Rusedski is the 10th man to win the trophy following Sampras in 1990 and 1997,David Wheaton, Michael Stich, Petr Korda, Magnus Larsson, Goran Ivanisevic, Boris Becker, and Marcelo Rios.

Serena Williams defeated Venus for the first time in four meetings, but had to survive a few edgy moments during the final set. Inthe past, Serena has almost seemed reticent to beat her older sibling. On this occasion, she took the initiative after the pair hadsplit the first two sets.

Then, leading 4-2, Serena had her serve broken, and it appeared that Venus might again prevail. Not this time. Serena reassertedherself, broke back immediately, and served out the match on her third match point.

"I was cruising today," Serena said. "I haven't played this well since I don't know when. I've never beaten Venus. I didn't know howit feels. It's actually kind of tough to take this win. We're going to play each other a lot. It's going to go back and forth a lot."

"I think Serena played a lot better," Venus said. "It's unfortunate that I lost. But there will be another chance where I can win,another chance where she can win. She worked hard for her prize-money, and I worked hard for what I have, too."

Rusedski and Serena Williams may be the last winners. The date at the Olympic Hall is not available next year, and their are plansfor the event to move elsewhere, perhaps Las Vegas, unless discussions currently taking place between the Grand SlamCommittee and the men's and women's professional tours result in a combined year-end finale with the ATP Tour Championships.

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