Monday Preview: Stage Set for All-British Clash
By Barry Newcombe
Hyung-Taik Lee v Xavier Malisse: Lee leads 2-0
At 2. 32 p. m yesterday the Centre Court here at Queen's Club was played on for the first time since the final day of the 2004 Stella Artois Championships. Four ladies had the task of playing in the surface and did so fastidiously and with due regard for one of the most history laden grass courts in the game. Today the ball will be moving a little faster as the men take over with the Korean Lee opening proceedings against Belgium's Malisse. Lee, who is 29 and lives in Seoul, defeated Greg Rusedski in the first round here last year and went on to the semi-finals where he was beaten by Sebastian Grosjean of France. Malisse, based in the USA, also knows his way around on grass having been a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2002 and a strong competitor in this tournament as well.
Verdict: Lee will want to remember last year's form to build his confidence.
Greg Rusedski v Joshua Goodall: First Meeting
This is an all-British first round match between 14th seed Rusedski, aged 31, and the wild card Joshua Goodall from Basingstoke, aged 19, who has been rewarded for making some significant strides in the past year with an entry into the Stella Artois and a Centre Court match. Rusedski knows the demands here very well indeed with with ten previous appearances in the championships, his best year being 1997 when he was a semi-finalist. Goodall's most recent ranking on the ATP tour was 326th. He is double handed on both sides which reflects his childhood when he was too small to pick up a racket with one hand. He knows all about double handers and what they have achieved in the game and having recovered from a knee injury earlier this year will be keen to make his mark today. Both players lost in the first round of the Surbiton Trophy last week.
Verdict: Rusedski to progress
Alan Mackin v Igor Andreev: First Meeting
Alan Mackin, who comes from Paisley, is in the main draw of the Stella Artois for the first time having come through the demands of the qualifying tournament to gain a first round match against the 13th seeded Russian Igor Andreev. He has played at Wimbledon twice and last week was beaten in the first round at Surbiton. He has little experience at the higher levels of the game but he holds a world ranking not far outside the top 200 and has certainly put in some significant time on grass in the past few days. Andreev, who comes from Moscow and turns 22 next month, finished in the top 50 in the world last year for the first time and made an impact in the Stella Artois when he stopped Andre Agassi, once his inspiration, in the second round. He made his main draw debut at Wimbledon last year, winning a round.
Verdict: Andreev to benefit from last year's experience on grass.
Paradorn Srichaphan v Kevin Kim: Srichaphan leads 2-0
Srichaphan is Thailand's leading player and starts his latest challenge at the Stella Artois in the position of 11th seed. He was a quarter-finalist here last year when he was beaten by the eventual champion Andy Roddick. He then became champion at Nottingham only to lose in the first round at Wimbledon where his best was a fourth round appearance in 2003. Kim, who is said to have so wanted to play tennis that he would hit balls around in his house when he was five years old, has progressed since then and had his best professional year in 2004. He has yet to play in singles at Wimbledon but made his debut there in doubles five years ago. Srichaphan has won both of their previous matches, the first in 2002, the second last year.
Verdict: Srichaphan to stay in command.
Santiago Ventura v Andrew Murray: First Meeting
Last Friday night a somewhat disconsolate Andrew Murray sat under the main stand at Stade Roland Garros at the French Open and discussed being defeated in the semi-finals of the junior championship against Croatian opposition in Miran Cilic. Clearly it was not the happiest of times for the British player who had signalled his status in the junior game by capturing the US Open title last September. This year he made a momentous contribution to Great Britain's Davis Cup victory over Israel in Tel Aviv when he shared in a doubles triumph with David Sherwood. Murray has had the encouragement of a wild card entry into the Stella Artois and even though grass is not his favourite surface he knows he will be under close scrutiny because of his successes in the past few months. Ventura also had an impressive year in 2004, climbing more than 300 places in the rankings, but has played little on grass.
Verdict:Ventura's experience may count with neither player well acquainted with grass.
Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Philippoussis v Rick Leach and and Travis Parrott
This is a first round pairing in doubles which brings together former Stella Artois champions in Lleyton Hewitt, winner three times, and his fellow Australian Mark Philippoussis, champion in both singles and doubles in 1997. Recently Hewitt has not played because of the effects of a rib injury. His last tournament was in March. Equally Philippoussis is wild carded into both singles and doubles after a series of injuries which have reduced the ranking of the man who was runner up at Wimbledon two years ago. Last week Philippoussis withdrew from competing at Surbiton. The 40 year old left-handed Leach has won 45 doubles titles and started to play with Parrott this year.
Verdict: Much talent in play here and for the winners a crack at the current French champions.