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Monday, 22 January, 2001, 12:24 GMT
Rusedski gamble begins to pay off
BBC Sport Online's Phil Gordos sees the British number two strip his whole game back to basics for the Australian Open.
Greg Rusedski took a big gamble by subjecting his game to a major overhaul at a time when he should have been at the peak of his powers.
The Briton's victory over world number one Gustavo Kuerten in the second round of the Australian Open suggests the risk was well worth taking.
And while Rusedski was beaten in the fourth round by Arnaud Clement, he was still delighted with the way his game held up amid the pressures of Grand Slam competition.
Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash has been a key figure in Rusedski's renaissance and admits he has been surprised at the player's rapid re-emergence.
He expected it to be several months before his charge was a force to be reckoned with again.
Yet not everyone is convinced that the British number two has embarked upon the right policy.
His former coach believes the welcome return to form may only be temporary.
Tony Pickard certainly is not convinced Rusedski's new-look serve will hold up over time, although a 79% winning first serve average against Kuerten sounds pretty convincing.
"I personally don't like the look of it," said Pickard. "It looks as though it could go sadly wrong. It looks a bit strange to me."
But at least the scowl that covered Rusedski's face for most of 2000 has disappeared now he is back on track after a forgettable 12 months.
"I've just worked with my whole game to change it and take the stress off my body, so I can compete every match and feel good," said the Canadian-born left-hander.
"It's nice to get solutions to problems. Pat has really helped out and been very good for me."
Rusedski has gone through more than his fair share of coaches over the years - Brian Teacher, Pickard, Sven Groneveld and Scott Brooke to name but four.
Now Cash, who was himself forced to restructure his game during his own career, is the man pulling Rusedski's strings.
"It's been a bit of a risk, but he felt he needed to make those changes, and he's done it and done it quickly, which is amazing."
So, just what has Rusedski altered to a game which was good enough to take him to the US Open final in 1997 and lift him to number four in the world rankings?
His serve may have been one of the most formidable weapons on the men's circuit but it was also causing him plenty of cause for concern.
His back, feet and thighs were all suffering under the weight of an action that could deliver the ball at a record-breaking 149mph.
Now, though, he should avoid cracking up in the future thanks to the advice of a biomechanist, whose job it is to ensure the body performs as smoothly under pressure as possible.
"He had a lot of niggling injuries last year," said Cash. "Those niggling injuries were caused by bad technique.
"The biomechanist is all about getting the body moving properly and not have any hitches.
"If you have a slight hitch, it puts a slight stress on your body."
Rusedski has also tinkered with his racket grip and even stands a little differently when preparing to return his opponent's serve.
All in all, the changes may not seem too major but it took a giant leap of faith on Rusedski's behalf.
Cash applauds the Brit for rising to the challenge.
"He had to have a very clear understanding of what he was doing and what he was undertaking," said Cash.
"He was willing to do that and make those changes for his career."
If Rusedski needs convincing that the path he has chosen is the right one, he could do worse than take a good look at the career of golfer Nick Faldo.
The Englishman decided early on in his career that he needed to remodel his swing if he was to ever challenge the world's best.
Already an accomplished player and the winner of numerous pro tournaments, he chose to revamp his swing under the tutelage of David Leadbetter.
The move paid off in a big way. Faldo won three Opens and three Masters titles to establish himself as one of the game's legends.
But Rusedski beware. Another golfer, Sandy Lyle, tinkered with his swing after winning the 1988 Masters and saw his career nosedive.
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