First, after he strained a ligament in his left ankle on June 12 and kept everyone, including his coach, Tony Pickard, guessing whether he would play Wimbledon, Rusedski hobbled onto the court for his first-round match against Australian qualifier Mark Draper and played like a man on stilts, finally forfeiting while trailing 4-6, 6-2, 5-4. Afterward, with a grin on his face, Rusedski revealed that Pickard, the esteemed mentor of Stefan Edberg, no longer wanted to work with him. "The timing of it is a little suspect," Rusedski said. "But I guess that just shows a person's true colors."
Pickard, credited with Rusedski's rise this year from No. 10 to No. 4, retorted that Rusedski ignored his advice to get treatment from a tour trainer and to skip Wimbledon. Instead, the player placed his leg and game in the hands of his physiotherapist, Reza Daneshmand, and didn't speak to Pickard in the two days before the tournament began. "There was a total breakdown in communication," Pickard said last Thursday. "Unless there's complete trust, it stops working."
It has stopped before with Rusedski. Just before playing the U.S. Open final, he fired his then coach, Brian Teacher, and hired Pickard. In the following months Rusedski talked about how much his new coach had taught him. But not last week. "The player always makes it," Rusedski said. "The coach can help, but it's the player at the end of the day."
True colors, indeed.
Yes, the End Is Near
Steffi Graf, 29 years old and playing in her first Grand Slam event in more than a year, lacked the steely will that pushed her to seven All-England titles and innumerable comebacks. Last Friday, after looking uncharacteristically nervous in a third-round loss to Natasha Zvereva, a player she'd beaten 17 straight times, Graf said she intended to finish out the year but could not guarantee that she would be back at Wimbledon next June.
"I'm just going with the flow a little," she said, reflecting on the back and knee injuries that had largely sidelined her since June 1997. "I tried harder to get in shape again, and it was very difficult. What happens next? I honestly don't know. I'll try to play, and we'll see."
Physically, Graf feels fine. But at this Wimbledon she complained often to chair umpires, cried at the press conference after her first match and seemed not to care when she lost—all un-Graf-like behavior. She will not just muddle through. One more injury will mean the end of her career. "That's going to be it," she said. "I've had enough."
The most telling sign that she's on her way out? The constant sniping by Martina Hingis that Graf is old and past her time barely elicited a raised eyebrow from the world's former No. 1 player. "Sometimes I do think those remarks are disrespectful," Graf said, "but they don't matter to me."