Federer takes aim at Roddick by Charles Bricker
If I submitted this article, I would have got into major trouble, there isn't anything wrong with doing some thorough research. The best thing he said was about Lundgren, and maybe he missed the deadline with the Nalbandian news, but it was known about before this was written up six hours ago.
Federer takes aim at Roddick
BY CHARLES BRICKER
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - (KRT) - It's one day before the start of the 2004 tennis season, and Roger Federer is in no hurry to whack that first serve.
For the first time since his first full pro season in 2000, he is not scheduled to play a warmup tournament before the Australian Open. He's neither scheduled into Doha, Qatar, which begins Monday, nor into Sydney, which starts its seven-day run a week later, ending a day before the start of the tour's first Grand Slam.
In addition, Federer still is without a coach, having jettisoned happy-go-lucky Peter Lundgren late last season, though he still has not satisfactorily explained why. About all he has confessed to is that, "I've been thinking about it some time."
Federer, who won the Masters and finished the year at No. 2, is not the first player to dump a coach after hitting or nearly hitting the top. Marcelo Rios once excused Larry Stefanki, who had helped him get to No. 1, and Lleyton Hewitt two years ago fired fellow Aussie Darren Cahill after reaching No. 1.
Despite his best year, in which he won his first Slam (Wimbledon) and the Masters and recorded a 78-17 record, Federer could be searching for someone to drive him harder physically. The corpulent Lundgren is an excellent teacher of the game, but he's never left people with the impression that a high fitness level is No. 1 on his agenda.
Certainly, Federer looks fit and has an excellent record in three-set matches (33-8 in 2003). But since he beat Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001 in a five-set gripper, he has lost his past four five-set matches, including three in 2003 (Aussie Open to David Nalbandian; Gstaad to Jiri Novak; Davis Cup to Hewitt).
No one who has met Lundgren wanted to see him fired. He's affable, knowledgeable and a great tour character. But this may be yet another signal that Federer is determined to push Andy Roddick out of the No. 1 spot, and Roddick vs. Federer has the stuff to become a great, long-lasting rivalry.
They met three times last season, all in semifinals, with Federer winning at Wimbledon, Roddick at the Masters event in Montreal and Federer again at the Masters Championships at Houston. Federer leads overall 5-1.
Federer isn't scheduled to play until the Aussie Open (Jan. 19-Feb. 1), but he could take a wild card into Sydney if he changes his mind. Of course the fact that he has entered the Kooyong Classic is something that he forgot about.
The rest of the top 10:
No. 1 Roddick, of Boca Raton, opens this week at Doha; No. 3 Juan Carlos Ferrero will start at the Aussie Open; No. 4 Andre Agassi will start at the Open, though he'll play some exhibitions before the Slam; No. 5 Guillermo Coria was to start at Doha but has pulled an abductor muscle in his leg and is out for a couple of weeks; No. 6 Rainer Schuettler plays Doha; No. 7 Carlos Moya goes to Chennai, India, which begins this week; No. 8 Nalbandian plays Adelaide, which also begins this week; No. 9 Mark Philippoussis and No. 10 Sebastien Grosjean of Boca play Doha.
On the women's side, neither of the Williams sisters, No. 3 Serena or No. 11 Venus, nor No. 6 Jennifer Capriati is scheduled to play until the Australian Open. Both sisters have been out with injury since their Wimbledon final, won by Serena in three sets. Serena had knee surgery, Venus an abdominal strain.
Among the rest of the top 10: No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne begins Jan. 12 at Sydney. No. 2 Kim Clijsters is representing Belgium at the Hopman Cup, which began Saturday. Clijsters also will play Sydney. That's also the opening event for No. 4 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 5 Lindsay Davenport, No. 7 Anastasia Myskina, No. 8 Elena Dementieva and No. 9 Chanda Rubin. Tenth-ranked Ai Sugiyama plays Monday at Gold Coast, Australia.
The women's tour had three-fourths of a great season in 2003, but there was a great deal of lost interest when the Williams sisters went into rehabilitation. Their absence, however, gave Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters a chance to dominate and enhance their confidence level enough to make them more competitive with the Williamses this year.
Certainly, Henin-Hardenne is Serena Williams' equal on clay, having beaten her in last year's French Open semifinals. With the season she had (75-11), she's going to feel more comfortable against Williams on faster surfaces.
Henin-Hardenne was 31-4 with four titles after Wimbledon, including the U.S. Open. Clijsters was 39-5 with five titles, including the end-of-the-season Porsche Championships. With Serena and Venus away from the game, they were the No. 1 and No. 2 attractions in the women's game.
But this is a new season, and the Williamses are back. How much rust will they carry into the Australian Open, and can they work through the first week and turn it on in the second week?
More plot lines on the women's tour:
_How well will Davenport play following foot surgery in the off-season, and can she be competitive with the young Belgians, who are still on an upward learning curve?
_There are four Russians in the top 20 and five in the top 21. Now that she has stabilized her coaching situation, can Elena Bovina (No. 21) push into the top 10? She has more potential than Myskina and Dementieva, her compatriots.
_Two young Americans who bear watching: Ashley Harkleroad at No. 51 and 17-year-old Carly Gullickson, who has just turned pro.
On the men's side:
_Two players coming back from injury have exceptional games. One is Tommy Haas, who has been off with shoulder problems more than a year. The other is Guillermo Canas, the gritty Argentine whose wrist injury finished him early in 2003. Haas is 3-0 against Roddick.
_Tim Henman began to recover his lost game late last season, has split with Stefanki and now is working part-time with former Pete Sampras coach Paul Annacone. He's one of the last of the serve-and-volley players.
_Philippoussis' runner-up finish at Wimbledon showed he has found a fitness formula that will keep him out of rehab for a long stretch of time. With his big game, he still has Grand Slam title potential.
_Young Americans to watch: No. 20 Mardy Fish of Tampa, No. 30 Robby Ginepri of Marietta, Ga., and No. 33 Taylor Dent of Newport Beach, Calif.