SPORT

Rusedski blows his top

London June 26. Good old Johnny Mac would have surely been jolted in his chair in the BBC commentary box. Even in his foul-mouthed prime, the lovable rascal of the golden age of professional tennis in the 1980s never managed to scale such heights in the audible obscenity sweepstakes.

``I can't do anything if the crowd ******* calls it,'' screamed the furious left hander on the centre court at Wimbledon on Wednesday.

Greg Rusedski had lost it, lost the plot. And the shocking barrage continued on court and on live television in the third set of the Briton's second round match against Andy Roddick, which the American won in straight sets.

Roddick was serving 2-5 down and 30-15 in the third set when his shot landed on the baseline near Rusedski's feet. A loud call of "out'' was heard by everyone on the court. Thinking it had come from the line judge, the Canadian who chose to become a Brit in the mid-90s simply scooped the ball up and across. Roddick did the needful and the umpire gave the American the point.

Then started the barrage and it continued during the changeover too after Rusedski had lost serve for the first time in the match. Surely, the choice four letter words would have made John McEnroe squirm.

All that Mac managed in his historic anti-hero days in the early 1980s was a meek, "You are the pits of the earth.'' And, perhaps, the famous, "You cannot be serious.'' These sound like the words of a good-natured agitated schoolboy in a neighbourhood park compared to Rusedski's outburst.

The point is, that single point could not have made a huge difference in the end. It was not as if it was a breakpoint or setpoint and even after that game, Rusedski was in the driver's seat, serving at 5-3.

``I apologise for my language. It wasn't necessary, I would say,'' Rusedski said at the press conference later. "These things happen. It's emotions, and wanting it so badly.''

In fact, he wanted it so badly that he gave it all back in a hurry. The hard won advantage in the third set was gone as Rusedski fell apart in a heap of errors, swept away by the tidal wave of his own anger.

``I can relate to Greg a little bit in that sense, but I wasn't focusing on what was going on,'' said Roddick. "I knew he was going to be a little mad. I was trying to ignore it and focus on what I was trying to do.''

This is something that Roddick did rather well, given the scoreline.

``I didn't handle it the best I could. We all lose it. 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 apologise. I am sorry for the language I used,'' said Rusedski. It was, in fact, the sort of language that cannot be printed in a family newspaper like this.

But then, in hindsight, it must be said that Rusedski got away lightly. He was fined $2,500 today, which is tipping money for a player as wealthy as the Briton is.

``I have made a reasonable investigation into the conduct of Mr. Rusedski and have decided to fine him the sum of $2,500 for his audible obscenity,'' said a statement from the referee Alan Mills.

The statement also said that the chair umpire Lars Graff from Sweden was correct in his appliance of the "Hindrance Rule'' which states, "Crowd noise ''out'' calls from spectators and other similar distractions are not considered a hindrance and the point should stand as played.''

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