Finally! Someone's paying some attention to Dent.
Taylor Dent to serve notice of greatness
January 1, 2004
Taylor Dent, the serve-volleying American with Australian connections and big intentions, has returned to his father's roots in search of his maiden grand slam.
Phil Dent, a member of Australia's 1977 Davis Cup-winning team, escorted his son back to Sydney last week to spend Christmas with Taylor's grandmother and two aunts.
But determined not to let the festive season interfere with the best form of his career, the hugely-talented Dent has spent four hours every day sweating it out under the watchful eye of his coach and dad on a suburban hardcourt on Sydney's northern beaches.
"I'm here getting ready on Rebound Ace for the Australian Open and Australian summer circuit," Dent said after one of his hearty sessions at Manly, his father's old stamping ground.
The 22-year-old bears a tattoo of American and Australian flags on his left arm and had been the subject of a minor tug of war for his Davis Cup services until making his debut for the US last year.
Despite having an Australian habit of "bowling", off-break style, the tennis balls back to his father during their work-outs, Dent was always going to pledge his allegiance to the US.
That done, the American-born right-hander who spent the first five years of his life in Sydney is focusing on fulfilling his considerable potential after an injury-plagued start to his career.
He missed large chunks of the latest season with wrist, groin and hamstring complaints but still managed to collect three titles in a stop-start campaign.
Only the world's top five players - Andy Roddick (six tournaments), Roger Federer (seven), Juan Carlos Ferrero (four), Andre Agassi (four) and Guillermo Coria (five) - won more in 2003.
After being sidelined for two months, Dent made a stunning comeback at the US Open in September, taking the first set off the top-seeded Agassi before having to retire hurt from what was developing into an electric fourth-round clash under lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Not to be denied, the classy youngster made another return from injury three weeks later to claim back-to-back titles in Bangkok and Moscow, compiling an 11-match winning streak, to finish the season ranked 33rd in the world - with a bullet. Dent's twin tournament successes came immediately after he decided to dispense with the services of former coach Brad Stine in favour of his Australian father, a one-time mentor of Michael Chang.
The rise in fortunes was anything but a coincidence, according to his godfather John Alexander, Phil Dent's Davis Cup-winning teammate and former doubles partner.
The mentor ... Phil Dent.
Alexander, a keen observer of Taylor's career and Australian Open doubles champion with Phil in 1975, believes Dent senior could steer Dent junior all the way to the top.
"He can be No.1 in the world - no doubt about it," Alexander said this week. "He can win anything he goes in. He's an enormous talent. The thing with Taylor is he's got a big game and it's hard to put everything together. But he's looking fit and Phil is doing a great job.
"At Taylor's stage of development, a big part of coaching is not saying too much, and Phil's being a mate [to Taylor] as much as anything. It's been hard in the past for Phil to push him. But now that Taylor's matured, he has his own burning desire to achieve so that's not an issue. Phil can be there for support and to bounce ideas off. Taylor will make his own decisions, but he appreciates his father's input."
While reluctant to set any rankings goals for this year for fear of placing too much pressure on himself, Taylor clearly shares Alexander's belief that he has the game to rival the best in the business.
With a massive serve as his chief weapon, Dent knows its consistent delivery is his key to success. "If I'm injury-free and holding serve 90-95 per cent, I will be extremely tough to beat for anybody," he said.
Brimming with confidence, Dent will fly to Adelaide tomorrow for the start of the Australian men's hardcourt championships on Monday before rounding out his preparations for the season-opening grand slam at the Commonwealth Bank Classic in Melbourne from January 14-17.
In the event of no notable Australian Open withdrawals, Dent will miss a top-32 seeding by one ranking position.
Alexander predicted such a scenario would leave Dent as the most dangerous floater in the Melbourne Park draw.
"Put it this way, if that's the case [and he's not seeded], no one will want to play him," Alexander said.
Like father, like son
PHIL DENT Born: Sydney, 1950 Singles highlights: three titles; Australian Open finalist 1974, French Open semi-finalist 1977, Wimbledon quarter-finalist 1977 Doubles highlights: Australian Open champion (with John Alexander) 1975; Australian Open runner-up 1970, 1973, 1977; French Open runner-up 1975, 1979; Wimbledon runner-up 1979 Davis Cup: member of Australia's 1977 winning team (13 ties for 13-6 record) Serve-volleyer who reached top-20 world ranking
TAYLOR DENT Born: Newport Beach, California, 1981 Singles highlights: four titles; US Open fourth round 2003 Davis Cup: made his debut for the US in 2003 Serve-volleyer who improved his year-end ranking for the sixth successive year, ending 2003 as world No.33 AAP
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/...546589482.html