Rusedski Left Red-Faced in Final Defeat
GREG RUSEDSKI yesterday missed out on his biggest win in Britain so far - but the defeat may have saved him from an almighty row.
Richard Krajicek eventually won a bruising and ultimately gripping Guardian Direct Cup final 7-6, 6-7, 7-5 after a bit of showboating from the home favourite came close to turning into a serious argument of sporting ethics.
Krajicek, the 1996 Wimbledon champion, was serving in the third set at 4-3, 15-0 and bludgeoning his way to victory when Rusedski, at the wrong end of a phenomenal serving display, lightheartedly handed his racket to a ball girl in frustration.
Young Victoria Lister took the racket and, much to the Battersea Park crowd's delight, the Dutchman played his part in the jape by staging a gentle rally with her before getting back to the serious business. The only problem was that the episode served to break his concentration and he promptly lost 10 of the next 11 points, placing him precariously down at 4-5, 0-30.
Justice was served by the fact that he recovered his composure just in time, rescued his service game and went on to score the decisive break of the match. His delight at collecting the 15th title of his injury-blighted career was such that he chose not to make an issue of the ball-girl episode afterwards, although one wonders what his reaction might have been had Rusedski nicked the title from under his nose.
As it was, he could afford to make light of it at the presentation of the trophy and the [pounds sterling]80,000 winner's cheque. 'Next time Greg is serving me off the court, I will know what to do - I will let the ball girl go out and play,' he said.
Later he considered it further, going so far as to blame himself.
'Maybe it was smart of him but maybe I should not have joined in,' he said. 'It would have been me to blame, not Greg, if I had lost the match because I could make the decision. I wanted to win so badly and I was very pleased that I played it tough in the end.' Harmless crowd-pleasing or gamesmanship? It is a tricky dilemma for tennis players, who are often accused of not showing enough personality on court but who know the heavy potential cost of being game for a laugh. …