Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Brussels, Belgium
Rochus defies critics with final appearance
Jan 15, 2005
By Alan Granville at the ASB Tennis Centre, Auckland
Much has been written about the height of Heineken Open finalist Olivier Rochus but the Belgian has been proving recently against the big boys that size does not matter in tennis.
Standing at 1.65m (5'5") the 24-year-old is the form player of 2005 after he reached the semifinals in Adelaide last week and now he is making his first appearance in a singles final in two years.
The man standing in the way of only his second singles title is Chile's Fernando Gonzalez but the world number 23 must know that he will be in for a fight on Centre Court on Saturday.
Rochus started 2005 ranked 71 in the world and he has already moved up to 58 thanks to his showing in Australia.
On his way to the last four he knocked out Nicolas Kiefer, the world number 21, before losing to eventual winner Joachim Johansson in the semis.
In Auckland Rochus started his campaign against eighth seed Luis Horna of Peru on Court 4.
The Belgian despatched him easily 6-3 6-1 before another comfortable 6-2 6-3 victory in round two against Italian qualifier Federico Luzzi.
However, that was as far as most people expected Rochus to go, as standing in his way in the quarterfinals was the top seed and world number six Guillermo Coria.
But Rochus was unfazed by his first appearance on Centre Court and toppled the Argentine 6-4 6-4 and suddenly his name was being mentioned as a serious contender for the Auckland crown.
Czech qualifier Jan Hernych, the conqueror of former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero, offered little resistance in the semis, going down 6-3 6-1 and now Rochus finds himself in only his fourth career final against the flashy Gonzalez.
He said he was confident ahead of the final.
"I have nothing to lose. I am facing a guy ranked 23 in the world who is playing great tennis. He has one of the best forehands in the world. I will treat this like the match against Coria. I will go out and try to have fun and it's a great feeling," said Rochus.
One of the main strengths Rochus displays is a phenomenal single-handed back hand which whips across court.
"My game is very good. I am consistent from the baseline and I am serving better and better. Fernando is very powerful and I know it is going to be very tough, but you never know in tennis."
He admitted he was going to target Gonzalez's backhand.
"Fernando has one of the best forehands in the world. I will try to do my best and play some high and low balls and also be aggressive."
So where has this sudden improvement come from?
Well he signalled that something was starting to go right when he won the doubles title at Roland Garros last year with Xavier Malisse - the duo also won the doubles crown in Adelaide last week.
He also made the fourth round of the US Open singles in 2004.
"The last six months have been great. At the US Open I beat Mario Ancic, Potito Starace and Carlos Moya. I was playing fantastically.
"I am reaching that level again. I am playing aggressively and moving well around the court.
"I really want to win. The last two finals I have lost and you are not in a final every week. I will prepare the best I can and I will be ready. But if I lose, I lose, it has already been a great week and if I win, well it would be just fantastic."
Source: One Sport
Go Belgian players!
Gilles Elseneer - Xavier Malisse - Dick Norman - Christophe & Olivier Rochus - Kristof Vliegen
Dominique Coene - Steve Darcis - Frederic De Fays - Niels Desein - Jeroen Masson - Stefan Wauters