Dearth of seeds no surprise to Rusedski

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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Wimbledon, England:Greg Rusedski isn't surprised there are so few seeded men's players left in the draw at Wimbledon. He's just pleased to be one of the few still around. "It's the depth of men's tennis these days if you don't play your best every day, you're going to go home," the 23rd-seeded Rusedski said Friday after his 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 11 American Andy Roddick. Among those eliminated before Friday were second-seeded Marat Safin, No. 3 Andre Agassi and No. 6 Pete Sampras. No. 5 Yevgeny Kafelnikov joined the early losers' club Friday, leaving just two of the top 15 No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and No. 4 Tim Henman. In the bottom half of the draw, the highest seeded player left is No. 22 Nicolas Lapentti. Losses Friday by Roddick and Taylor Dent left lucky loser and little-known Jeff Morrison as the only American man still in contention. If Morrison loses Saturday to Sjeng Schalken, it would mark the first time since 1922 that no American has advanced to the round of 16. It's already the worst performance by American men at Wimbledon since the Open era began in 1968. In Saturday's third-round play, Hewitt was paired against Austria's Julian Knowle, and Henman against Wayne Ferreira. Among the women, No. 1 Venus Williams was due to face Canada's Maureen Drake, and No. 3 Monica Seles against Ai Sugiyama. Rusedski, meanwhile, has further raised British hopes. No British player has won the men's title since Fred Perry in 1936. Henman has made the semifinals three times, and now Rusedski could make a run. "I think the expectation is high on both of us this year," Rusedski said. "I'm the one who's in the background at the moment. I'm still here, that's the most important thing." Kafelnikov was beaten 7-6 (4), 7-5, 6-1 in the third round by Belgium's Xavier Malisse. In women's play, No. 2 Serena Williams and No. 3 Jennifer Capriati won in straight sets to reach the fourth round. Williams struggled to a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2) win over Belgium's Els Callens, while Capriati beat Daja Bedanova 6-4, 6-2. Kafelnikov, a two-time Grand Slam champion, reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 1995 but hasn't been a factor at the All England Club since. Malisse, a 21-year-old baseliner, has been moving steadily up the rankings and is seeded 27th. Kafelnikov never looked comfortable Friday as Malisse kept him under steady pressure. The match turned in the Belgian's favor with Kafelnikov serving at 6-5 in the second set. On the second break point of the game, Kafelnikov blew an easy high backhand volley, floating the ball wide and handing Malisse the set. The Russian dropped his racket in disgust, closed his eyes and covered his face with his hands. The match was essentially over as Malisse raced through the final set in 23 minutes. Kafelnikov said Centre Court is playing slower this year because of a lack of rain, something that will favor Hewitt. "We have been through five days and we have not seen one drop of rain," Kafelnikov said. "It's definitely going to have some major effect on the big serve and volley players because you have a nice slippery court." Rusedski, who faces Malisse next, played a nearly flawless serve-and-volley match against Roddick. The Briton was never broken, faced only two break points and thoroughly dominated the 19-year-old American. Roddick made a number of acrobatic saves and full-stretch dives, but couldn't hurt Rusedski. Rusedski fed off the crowd support, shouting and pumping himself up. "It's easily the best match I've ever seen him play at Wimbledon," said former three-time champion John McEnroe, doing television commentary for the BBC. Also advancing to the round of 16 were Richard Krajicek and Mark Philippoussis, two big servers coming back after serious injuries and who will face each other in the fourth round. Philippoussis was the first man to reach the round of 16, serving 33 aces and beating Nicolas Kiefer 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Krajicek, the 1996 champion, swept to a 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2 victory over Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan, who beat Agassi in the second round. Philippoussis and Krajicek are both serve and volleyers, and the Dutch player doesn't expect to see many rallies. "I'm not going to stay back on my first or second serve, and neither is he," said Krajicek. (AP)

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