Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: lost in some cornfield
Stage Set for First Round Drama
The draws for the 2004 Estoril Open produced a number of mouthwatering clashes in both the men's and women's competitions on Sunday, with former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic facing Spanish sensation Rafael Nadal, and women's top seed Elena Bovina meeting former Roland Garros winner Iva Majoli.
Tournament director Joao Lagos was joined at the draw ceremony by Portuguese TV host Marta Leite Castro from RTP, along with Majoli and defending men's champion Nikolay Davydenko.
"I think we have some fantastic first round matches," said Lagos. "Nadal against Ivanisevic is something special. The newcomer and one of the old guys, so charismatic, so I think this is very interesting. Also, from a Portuguese point of view, we have the two newcomers - Diogo Rocha and Leonardo Tavares - playing against each other in the first round, giving them a big chance to go ahead in the draw as well.
"In the women's draw, Iva Majoli, Elena Bovena could be the final. It's great to show such a good first round match and is very interesting for the Portuguese fans, who can also look forward to some good weather at the start of the event. It's the Easter holidays, and we have some very good matches to attract the fans, especially the younger ones."
In the men's draw, top seed Rainer Schuettler will be looking to kick-start his 2004 season after going 2-7 in the opening three months. He takes on Victor Hanescu of Romania in the first round.
Defending champion Davydenko will open his campaign against Czech Radek Stepanek with a potential quarterfinal meeting against Schuettler, while third seed Agustin Calleri - last year's runner-up - will be hoping to shake off last week's Davis Cup loss against Belarus when he meets a qualifier in the first round.
Davydenko, who went on to finish 2003 at No. 44 in the world, said he was looking forward to returning this year. "It's a great tournament," said Davydenko. "I'll be trying to win it again, and it's important for me to get my season going and we will see what happens this week."
In an all-Argentine clash, No. 5 seed Juan Ignacio Chela takes on wild card Guillermo Canas. Chela won their only previous meeting on clay in Acapulco two years ago.
In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Nicolas Massu meets rising French star Richard Gasquet and the winner of that match will face either Ivanisevic or Nadal in the second round.
Ivanisevic, who played only three ATP tournaments in 2003 after suffering from shoulder, elbow and knee problems, retired against Nadal in the second round of the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami last month with a shoulder injury after losing the first set 6-4 to the 17-year-old Spaniard, who reached his first career final in Auckland in January (l. to Hrbaty).
Marat Safin, the No. 8 seed who reached the quarterfinals in Estoril in 2002, opens his bid against Frenchman Cyril Saulnier having won their only previous meeting in St. Petersburg in 2002. And Lagos was looking forward to seeing the Russian back again this year.
"Safin was No. 1 in the world when we organized the Tennis Masters cup in Lisbon and would have been the year-end No. 1 if Gustavo Kuerten hadn't won the last two matches of the season," said Lagos. "So we hope he can start the clay court season well here in Estoril in order to have a good season because international tennis needs Marat Safin in good condition."
In the women's draw, second seed Alicia Molik of Australia meets Henrieta Nagyova while third seed Emilie Loit takes on Els Callens of Belgium.
Talking about her first round match, Majoli said: "It's going to be a very tough match playing against the top seed. It's the first tournament of the year on clay for me, but I will play my best and we will see what happens."