Muster and Cash keep tempers in check
It was the grudge match that wasn't. Thomas Muster's baseline game overcame the serve and volley of Pat Cash yesterday at Victoria Park in an even-tempered match to earn himself a place in the final of the Chevalier Champions tournament.
The Austrian former world number one is set to face Marcelo Rios in tomorrow's final after he ground out a 6-4, 7-5 victory over former Wimbledon champion Cash in one of the closest matches of the tournament so far.
There had been speculation of a fiery encounter because of an altercation last November during the German leg of the Merrill Lynch Tour of Champions. Tempers flared after Muster smashed a dollying ball straight into the Australian, leading to a minor scuffle.
But last night Muster denied any ill-will towards his opponent. 'There is no grudge. I mean there was that incident last year but it's behind us now. It was a good match, we played good shots and the crowd seemed to enjoy it,' said Muster.
'It's good for me because he beat me here last year,' added the 1995 French Open champion. 'And I'm obviously delighted to get into the final.'
There was no reenactment of the drama that coloured their encounter in Essen, Germany. The closest it came to that was when Muster hit a ball high in the air that almost landed on the Australian, but Cash didn't seem to notice.
The pair voiced their frustrations at the umpire, both players pausing frequently to illustrate the rules of tennis. But Muster gallantly defended the performance of the officials.
'The ball moves very fast and the lines are not painted properly, so it is difficult for them,' said Muster. 'Anyway it isn't the US Open final; we were just having a bit of fun.'
In a rerun of last week's final in Doha, Rios swept aside Cedric Pioline to give him an unassailable lead in group A. The former world number one started nervously, going a break down in the first set, but recovered to thrash the Frenchman 3-6, 6-0, 10-2.
Earlier, Australian Mark Woodforde scraped past swede Anders Jarryd 6-4, 1-6, 10-7, while Frenchman Henri Leconte edged past Hong Kong Cricket Club tennis coach Mark Kratzmann 6-1, 1-6, 10-6.
Today's matches (3pm start): Marcelo Rios v Mark Woodforde, Henri Leconte v Thomas Muster. Tonight (not before 7pm): Cedric Pioline v Anders Jarryd, Pat Cash v Mark Kratzmann.