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Rusedski Loses It on Crass Court

Confused by fan's shout of 'Out!', he unleashes tirade at chair umpire during changeover and is beaten by Roddick at Wimbledon.

June 26, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England — You heard the words, the obscene tirade, and the almost-amusing use of the English language, and it seemed as though Greg Rusedski had turned into a living, breathing, real-time John McEnroe on Wednesday at Wimbledon.

Too bad for him he couldn't complete the job because, well, then the English might finally have another tennis champion.

But an armchair linesman helped take him out. These kinds of fans aren't supposed to be hanging around Center Court. One overly enthusiastic supporter inserted himself into the process in the third set, shouting "Out!" on a call -- perhaps a wishful observation of an Andy Roddick forehand -- and this promptly sent Rusedski's head swiveling.

Rusedski unleashed a profanity-laced tirade at chair umpire Lars Graff on a changeover late in the third set on his way to losing the final five games. And so, the fifth-seeded Roddick won the second-round match, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (1), 7-5, a reversal of their meeting here last year in the third round.

Roddick's path toward his first Grand Slam title has grown considerably smoother, especially with the elimination of defending champion Lleyton Hewitt from his quarter. The high drama against Rusedski was a major test, a contest of huge serves, and this time, Roddick had an answer for almost everything coming his way.

"That wasn't a second-round match out there," said Roddick of the much-hyped confrontation.

Still, it was the phantom call and the oversized reaction by Rusedski that dominated the proceedings afterward. The controversy unfolded in the third set, with Roddick serving at 2-5, but leading, 30-15. In the rally in question, Roddick's forehand appeared to clip the baseline and Rusedski floated a backhand reply, hearing the fan shout. He thought it was an official calling lines and stopped playing, and Roddick casually hit a backhand into the open court.

Both players were clearly confused. Instead of calling a let, Graff let the point stand and warned the crowd about such disruptions. That made the score 40-15, and Roddick held to pull to 3-5.

Rusedski was visibly unsettled and dropped his serve at love. It was the first time he had been broken in the match.

Then, he broke.

On the changeover, still leading, 5-4, he tossed his racket down, after having smacked a ball. He aired out Graff with a series of unprintable words.

"At least replay the point and give a warning," Rusedski said.

"It's ... ridiculous. Absolutely ... ridiculous. You say warning, replay the point. This ... changes the entire match. Well done. Well done."

Even McEnroe seemed stunned by the way Rusedski exploded.

"Five thousand, six thousand, seven thousand," he said on BBC. "I can tell him from experience, it's a costly exchange."

Rusedski, despite winning the Nottingham grass title on Saturday, had been injured the last few months and had played sparingly since his loss to Pete Sampras at the U.S. Open.

The BBC apologized to its viewers later but also replayed the full exchange. Rusedski apologized afterward when asked if he regretted the episode.

"Yes, I do," said a teary-eyed Rusedski, who is expected to receive a substantial fine. "You know, I'm sorry for the language I used. We all lose it. Unfortunately, if you lose it at work, it doesn't get shown on TV. If I do, it does. And for the people that were offended, I apologize.

"I was desperate to go as far as I could in these championships. The nine months I've been through, you can't imagine what it's like. I'm still pretty beat up about the loss today, so it's pretty tough."

Roddick has been there before, too, melting down in a big way at a Grand Slam event, in particular, the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in 2001. He didn't mind being on the other side this time.

"It's good," he said. "I can relate to Greg a little bit in that sense."

Roddick, 20, survived two tense tiebreakers. In the first one, he won four of the final five points and almost strutted to the chair. Roddick won the first six points of the second tiebreaker after Rusedski lost the first two sets without losing his serve.

Last year, Rusedski exploited Roddick's backhand with relative ease. This time, the only instance he faltered on his serve was in the second game of the third when Rusedski broke him at 15.

Said Brad Gilbert, who started coaching Roddick after the French Open: "He played one sloppy seven minutes at the beginning of the third set, lost his concentration and let a few break points get away, and then at 5-2, it looked like, 'Shoot, we're going to be here awhile.'

"And then he took his game to another level. He's a new kid now. You're starting to see a more mature Andy who lets his game do the talking. John McEnroe had the ability to take it to another level when he got angry, but with Andy, every time he's imploded, he lost. The worst thing he could have done today is give the crowd any ammunition."

Roddick took that option out of the crowd's hands. "You probably were watching, could see my lips moving a little bit out there. I can be my own best friend and my own worst enemy," Roddick said. "But today I was a good buddy."



Roddick's Road

Top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt's first-round loss opened up the draw favorably for fifth-seeded Andy Roddick. A look at whom Roddick may draw as the tournament progresses:

* Third-round opponent: No. 25 Tommy Robredo, Spain.

* Possible fourth-round opponent: No. 12 Paradorn Srichaphan, Thailand.

* Possible quarterfinal opponent: Hewitt-ouster Ivo Karlovic, Croatia; Max Mirnyi, Belarus; Justin Gimelstob; Jonas Bjorkman, Sweden.

* Possible semifinal opponent: No. 4 Roger Federer, Switzerland; No. 9 Rainer Schuettler, Germany; Todd Martin.

* Possible final opponent: No. 2 Andre Agassi; No. 10 Tim Henman, Britain; No. 3 Juan Carlos Ferrero, Spain.

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