WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Vince Spadea picked the biggest stage in tennis to end his record eight-month run of futility.
The 25-year-old American provided the most drama on the opening day of Wimbledon by outlasting 14th-seeded Greg Rusedski of Britain -- considered a title contender -- in a five-set thriller that lasted nearly four hours.
''Here I am,'' Spadea said after Monday's 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (8), 9-7 win. ''Six months. It was worth the wait, huh?''
Actually, it had been eight months since Spadea last won a match -- back in October in Lyon, France. Last week, he was ousted in the first round of the Nottingham Open, extending his losing streak to 21 straight matches and breaking Gary Donnelly's previous tour record of 20 consecutive defeats.
Facing Rusedski, one of the fastest servers in the game and a proven grass-court specialist, only figured to extend the misery. Even Spadea's parents left Europe and went home to Miami after last week's draw, telling their son: ''Vince, man, good luck to you, boy.''
But Rusedski was off his game Monday, and Spadea fought for 3 hours, 56 minutes before finally prevailing as dusk fell on Court 1 just after 9 p.m.
Spadea stretched his arms out wide and looked skyward after Rusedski sailed a backhand volley long. After coming off the court, Spadea was hugged by former Wimbledon champion (now television commentator) John McEnroe.
''I felt like my kid was born or something,'' Spadea said. ''That was a great feeling.''
Spadea said he never played badly during the losing streak and kept plugging away ''like a street fighter.''
''It's been a rough year,'' he said. ''It's been a rough patch in my life in tennis. But (the streak) didn't really faze me so much. ... I wasn't sweating it. Everyone was making a big deal of it. I wasn't even counting anyway.''
Rusedski said Spadea is ''too good to lose that many matches in a row.''
A quarterfinalist in 1997, Rusedski was considered one of Pete Sampras' potential challengers for the title. Along with Tim Henman, he carried Britain's hopes for its first home-grown Wimbledon men's champion in 64 years.
''I'm not going to make any excuses,'' he said. ''I'm trying my best, but it's just not going very well at the moment.''
Tuesday's Wimbledon schedule features women's defending champion Lindsay Davenport opening play on Centre Court against her doubles partner, Corina Morariu. In other women's matches, French Open champion Mary Pierce was paired against Nicole Pratt, while Monica Seles faced Karina Habsudova.
In men's play, Andre Agassi, the 1992 champion and No. 2 seed, was up against American qualifier Taylor Dent.
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