Bad light stopped play and staved off a nationwide nervous breakdown last night when Greg Rusedski's fourth-round match against Xavier Malisse of Belgium was suspended just before 8pm at two sets apiece, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. You wait ages for a British contender to get involved in a nail-biting, five-set thriller and then two come along at once. Tim Henman finished his, but Rusedski must wait until today to see if he can progress to the quarter-finals.
The British No 2's match swung both ways before being called off. There was also a dash of a controversy at the start of the fourth set. Malisse had been living dangerously on his serve in the first game, but saved four break points to move to 1-0. Rusedski had also saved a break point on his first service game when, after a terrifically entertaining rally, he produced a double-hit on a volley at the net. The ball clearly hit the strings and the frame separately before shooting skywards. As Malisse was failing to get back to the net, Rusedski craned his neck forward to watch the ball's descent on to the Belgian's side of the net. The point, which he should therefore have lost, won the Briton the game. The umpire, Carlos Ramos, did not overrule. For the record, he is Portuguese.
The start of the match, staged on Centre Court, had been delayed until shortly before 7pm after rain interrupted play. Rusedski immediately went 0-40 down on his opening service game against the No 27 seed, who had not dropped a set before this match. But he dug deep to serve his way out of trouble, and then broke Malisse to love in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead.
Malisse was unable to create another opportunity to break Rusedski's serve, and the British No 2 served out the set 6-3.
Malisse was unhappy about a number of line calls and complained ferociously to Ramos at the change of ends. "Are you following the ****ing ball?" he said. "There are so many mistakes." And the big one was yet to come.
Rusedski held his opening service game of the second set to love courtesy of consecutive aces and looked to be finding his rhythm. But after Malisse had saved a break point to edge back in front, two missed volleys gifted him the break of serve and helped the Belgian to a decisive 4-1 lead.
Just when Malisse had worked hard to deservedly get himself back on level terms, he presented Rusedski with a vital break of serve in the early stages of the third set. With the big serve back in the groove, one break was all that was needed and the 28-year-old Briton served out to love to take the set 6-3 and a two sets to one lead.
The fourth set went Malisse's way and the crowd dashed out to lie down in a darkened room. Some crazy punters on Henman Hill, still heady from watching "Tiger" Tim, headed straight to the pavements to queue for more punishment today.
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