MALISSE IN FINE FORM AT CHAMPIONS TENNIS
Greg Rusedski and Xavier Malisse got their Champions Tennis campaigns off to a flying start on Wednesday, with both players picking up quality wins at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Former Top 15 player Xavier Malisse had all the answers in the evening session against former World No. 1 and two-time US Open champion Patrick Rafter, rifling numerous passing shot winners in his 6-3, 6-3 victory. The Belgian secured the first break of the match and kept Rafter on defense throughout, resulting in the Australian asking a ball girl to play a point in the second set he could take a break.
The win gave Malisse revenge for his lone match against Rafter 15 years ago at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati, which Rafter comfortably won 6-0, 6-3.
“I asked him if he remembered playing me a while back and he didn’t. He beat me so fast he doesn’t even remember!” joked Malisse. “I have been training and keeping busy so I’m happy with the result. It’s always fun here and it was good playing Pat.”
In the opening match of the tournament, former British No. 1 Greg Rusedski rallied from a set down to defeat Younes El Aynaoui 4-6, 7-5, [10-8]. Little separated the two players as they both produced their own brand of first-strike tennis, ultimately forcing a Champions Tie-break. The Brit secured an early mini-break and produced a brilliant lob winner on match point to wrap up the popular victory.
“I haven’t played singles for a while, so this was a lot of fun. I played a lot against Younes in our younger days and this was a good match,” said Rusedski. “We still have some competitive juice in us and for a first match, we gave good entertainment. It takes a while to get going in the first match, but I’m going to do some training and it should be fine for the next few matches.”
Malisse will return to the court on Thursday to play local favourite and former World No. 4 Tim Henman. The Brit will perform double duty as he squares off against Rafter in a battle of serve-and-volleyers during the evening session.