Even though he's No. 1, Gustavo Kuerten can't get past the second round of the Australian Open.
Despite dominating the baseline rallies and hitting passing shots with spectacular accuracy — and despite holding one match point — he lost to Greg Rusedski 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 today.
"I think it's my greatest victory by far," said Rusedski, who prevailed with a big serve and all-out net-rushing tactics. "I've never beaten a No. 1 player in the world on a stadium court at a Grand Slam."
But he has beaten Kuerten in four of their five meetings.
Rusedksi Survives Physical Match
Serving at 5-6 in the final set, Rusedski double-faulted twice, giving Kuerten a match point at 30-40. He saved it with a good serve that Kuerten returned into the net, held for 6-all and broke the Brazilian in the next game with net-charging tactics that forced misses.
Kuerten said the match came down to that one match point.
"He is dangerous," said the two-time French Open champion, who rose to No. 1 late last year. "I didn't do the right thing that time."
Still, serving for the match at 7-6, Rusedski briefly slipped from his first serve percentage of 70, giving Kuerten chances to pound in more of his favorite passing shots.
Serving at 7-7, Kuerten moved to 40-0 but then double-faulted and missed the next four points, ending with a lob just long off a drop volley by Rusedski.
Leading 8-7, Rusedski made no mistake on his serve, holding at love and advancing to the third round.
The crowd of 15,000 appeared largely on Rusedski's side after an ace by Kuerten that Rusedski and many spectators thought was out when Kuerten held for 6-5 in the last set. The decision was roundly booed.
Kafelnikov Calms Down, Wins on Aces
Last year, Rusedski was set back by injuries, didn't win a title for the first time since 1994, and ended the year at No. 64. He had been as high as No. 4 in 1997.
"When was the last time you saw me scamper for five sets around the court, being corner-drilled by the best groundstroke player in the world?" Rusedski said. "Physically, it was fantastic."
Meanwhile, Yevgeny Kafelnikov was helped the most by a ball he slammed out of the court in disgust.
His frustration vented, the 1999 champion and 2000 runner-up settled down, and advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory over Nicolas Kiefer. Kafelnikov, the Olympic gold medalist, finished his three-hour match with three aces.
Kiefer went downhill after what he thought was an ace to give him 30-all in the fourth set's eighth game. The umpire overruled the call, and Kiefer won only 10 points the rest of the match.
Hewitt, Norman Advance
Nothing helped Tommy Haas, who led in every set, blew a 5-0 lead in the first and missed two set points in the second before losing to No. 7 Lleyton Hewitt 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
In the tiebreaker, Haas, the Olympic silver medalist, missed an easy volley and double faulted on the next point, falling behind 5-3. Hewitt finished the three-hour match with a backhand lob.
"It's stupid to let situations like this slip away," Haas said. "I had my chances to get further."
Hewitt, one of Australia's hopes for its first Australian Open champion since 1976, had to rally to beat Jonas Bjorkman in the first round.
He next faces unseeded Carlos Moya, the 1997 runner-up and a former No. 1. Moya beat Marc Rosset 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.