Tired Rusedski surrenders to aches and pains

Greg Rusedski was unable to capitalise on a two sets to love lead at the United States Open for a second consecutive year here yesterday. This time, unlike his contest against the American Todd Martin in the fourth round last year, Rusedski held two match points against the Frenchman Cedric Pioline in a fourth-set tie-break. Eventually, however, the British No 2 ran out of steam and Piloine prevailed, 6-7, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 after three hours and 45 minutes.

Greg Rusedski was unable to capitalise on a two sets to love lead at the United States Open for a second consecutive year here yesterday. This time, unlike his contest against the American Todd Martin in the fourth round last year, Rusedski held two match points against the Frenchman Cedric Pioline in a fourth-set tie-break. Eventually, however, the British No 2 ran out of steam and Piloine prevailed, 6-7, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 after three hours and 45 minutes.

Pioline now plays Martin in the third round. Like Rusedski, the Frenchman has barely played since Wimbledon. In Rusedski's case, he was sidelined by the recurrence of an injury to his right foot. Pioline had surgery after breaking three bones in the fingers of his left hand while playing volleyball.

In common with Rusedski, Pioloine has been a finalist in the men's singles here. Whether he can raise his game for another sustained challenge is open to speuclation, but Rusedski was the man lying flat on his stomach having cream rubbed into his sore back before going into the decisive set. He lost the first nine points of the fifth set, but he managed to break back for 3-3 before Pioline produced the telling shots to take a 4-3 lead and then break with a forehand pass on his first match point.

In the opening set, which took 51 minutes, Rusedski looked second best in several games in terms of wit, movement and execution . He served his way back from 0-40 in the fourth game, and attacked Pioline in the fifth, and broke to love for 3-2, the Frenchman double-faulting on break point.

Rusedski won the next two points, extending his run to 11 in a row - only to lose the next 10. A double-fault to 30-40 gave Pioline the incentive to break back for 3-3, driving an unstoppable forehand on the concluding point.

At 3-4, Rusdeski saved two break points, and the set moved on to a tie-break. Pioline struck first, for 1-2. Rusedski struck back for 2-2, and then displayed astute movement to gain another mini-break for 5-3. An 136 mph ace took Rusedski to set point, and Pioline returned a second serve long for 7-4.

Rusedski took a 2-0 lead in the second set, only to be passed by a Pioline backhand on break point in the third game. There was little doubt, however, that Rusedski's confidence had grown. At 2-2, he saved five break points and battled through eight deuces.

By now, the heat and humidity was taking a toll. "I'm going to change my shorts," Rusedski said to the umpire during the change-over. "You have to wait to do that between sets," the umpire replied. So Rusedski settled for changing his shoes and socks.

This made him comfortable enough to break for 4-2 in the next game, hitting a backhand winner across the court. There was cause for concern, however, after Pioline caught the baseline with a forehand to save the first set point with Rusedski serving at 5-3, 40-30, and then created a break point, passing Rusedski with a backhand down the line at deuce.

The Frenchman showed less control with his next shot, missing a forehand service return, and his chances of saving the set disappeared when he drove a forehand into the net on the second set point. Rusedski was then allowed to go to the bathroom to change his shorts.

He may have been refreshed for the third set, but it did not show when he was broken for 1-3. Resilience enabled him to recover the break and then hold for 3-3. Rusedski had chances to break for 4-3, but Pioline resisted. He hit a venomous smash at Rusedski, the ball striking him on the rear as he twisted away, as the Frenchman held service. Pioline bruised Rusedski even more severely by breaking him for 4-6 to pull a set back.

Pioline served to level the match when leading 5-3 in the fourth set, but was broken by Rusedski, who then had two match points at 6-4 in the tie-break. Pioline saved the first with a potent second service return and the second with a foerhand pass and went on to win the shoot-out, 8-6.

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