Greg Rusedski: Tennis bad boys are box office gold

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It is 10 past nine when I meet Greg Rusedski on a drizzly summer’s morning in Battersea Park, by which point he has run the Wandsworth Common, walked the dog and cycled to our interview – this being a brief window of respite before playing in the Tennis Classic tournament at the Hurlingham Club that afternoon. Yet despite the endless exercising (he’s also a keen gym-goer) and recent feats of colleagues relatively close in age – Roger Federer and Feliciano Lopez, both 37, were victorious at Queen’s two weeks ago – the prospect of re-entering the sport that made his name is, he says, off the table.

“I’m 45, there’s no chance,” he maintains. “We hit the ball just as good as most people, but the problem is the movement.” For many sportsmen, the unfortunate apex at which age and diminishing prowess meet is no less than devastating – but for Canadian-born Rusedski, who began representing Britain when he was 21 and at one stage possessed the fastest serve in the world, there is no love lost for his professional career. “It’s almost like that was a past life,” he reflects, that lantern jaw still instantly recognisable from his court days. “I think physically I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

Rusedski had been playing competitively for more than a decade when a hip injury began to affect his game. Andy Murray has suffered similar but opted for surgery, undergoing a second resurfacing operation in January; Rusedski couldn’t face the prospect of two years’ recovery time. “My daughter had just been born so I decided enough’s enough,” the former fourth seed remembers. “Time to move on and do something else.”

The ease with which he describes leaving the thing that all but dominated his life until Scarlett’s birth in 2006 (John James followed three years later) belies Rusedski’s apparent straightforwardness, all relayed via gentle Canadian tones that have, after two decades here, taken on the odd clipped British note.