Kafelnikov, Rusedski Advance
BASEL, Switzerland (AP) _ Australian Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov kept alive his goal of ending the season as the world’s top-ranked player with a solid 6-3, 7-5 victory over American Vincent Spadea Wednesday in the opening round of the $1 million Swiss Indoors
Third-seeded Greg Rusedski, winner of last week’s Grand Slam Cup, cleared his first hurdle in Basel, vanquishing France’s Fabrice Santoro 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.
With his victory, the second-seeded Kafelnikov advanced to the second round and kept pace with French Open and U.S. Open champion Andre Agassi in the fierce battle for the No. 1 year-end ranking.
The 25-year-old Russian began the match by dropping his serve. But he won the next three games, breaking Spadea twice, to jump ahead 3-1.
The second set stayed on serve through the first 10 games before Kafelnikov advanced by taking the next two games and the match.
Kafelnikov, seeking for a third title this season, will French qualifier Lionel Roux, ranked 214th in the world, in the next round.
The Russian, who was ranked No. 1 for six weeks in early summer, is currently second in the ATP Tour standings behind Agassi, who easily won his first-round match Tuesday over Jan Siemerink of the Netherlands.
Rusedski avenged his loss to Santoro in Doha, Qatar, last year.
``I’d never beaten Fabrice in my career yet,″ joked Rusedski, won this tournament two years ago. ``I was really out to get my revenge over Fabrice.
``I was really pleased with the way I played. It was some of my best tennis.″
After winning the opening-set tiebreak, Rusedski broke Santoro at 1-1 in the second set to jump ahead. It was then that one of the arena’s spotlights burned out, throwing dark shadows across the red indoor carpet.
Despite a 30-minute delay, the lanky Britain remained unperturbed, breaking Fabrice again to go up 5-2, then holding for the win.
``When the light went out, I was a little concerned because I’d built up some momentum,″ admitted Rusedski, seeking his second title of the season. ``But luckily I was able to maintain my level of play and went on to win.″
In other first round play, Hicham Arazi of Morocco upset seventh-seeded Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 and Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty beat Andrei Pavel of Romania 6-0, 6-2.