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post #1 of 155 (permalink) Old 03-12-2005, 07:58 PM Thread Starter
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March 7, 2005

J.A. Adande:

Roddick Reminds Us Again That He's Good but Not Great

If Andy Roddick is going to make Andre Agassi irrelevant, this isn't the way to do it.

Roddick couldn't keep the U.S. Davis Cup hopes alive against Croatia on Sunday. He couldn't give Southern California tennis fans an extra chance at one of the now-dwindling opportunities to see Agassi play in person.

And Roddick still hasn't made good on his potential to replace Agassi as America's preeminent tennis name.

It was Agassi's presence that gave this Davis Cup first-round match at the Home Depot Center a little extra sizzle, helping to sell 18,760 tickets — a three-day record for a first-round matchup in the United States. But Agassi lost to Ivan Ljubicic in straight sets Friday, a reminder that his presence is becoming more ceremonial than functional. And when Roddick's five-set loss to Ljubicic on Sunday clinched a victory for Croatia in the best-of-five format, Agassi didn't even have to take the court for the "dead rubber" final match. The U.S. sent out Bob Bryan instead.

Agassi, 35, will play in Indian Wells this week. He might play in the Mercedes-Benz Cup at UCLA this summer. Beyond that, who knows? He has told his agent that one day, when he feels he can't win Grand Slams anymore, he'll call it quits. There'll be little advance warning and no farewell tour.

We could have witnessed the torch passing Sunday. Instead it looked more like a bobbled baton.

Roddick remains among the tennis elite, ranked No. 3 in the world. And he did get the United States' only victory of the weekend when he beat Mario Ancic on Friday.

The problem is that he hasn't vaulted to that higher level, the place formerly occupied by Agassi and Pete Sampras.

It was all the way back at the 2002 U.S. Open that Sampras called Roddick "the future of the game, especially in the U.S."

Unfortunately, since those words left Sampras' mouth on the eve of their quarterfinal matchup in New York, Sampras and Agassi have won more Grand Slams than Roddick, 2-1.

We might end up saying that Roddick had the misfortune of coming of age at the same time as Roger Federer, the same way Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone are all ringless because they entered the NBA at the same time as Michael Jordan.

But it seems as if Roddick keeps squandering his opportunities, and there were many examples of that Sunday in a match that had as many turns as a marathon — and lasted even longer.

After splitting the first two sets, Roddick and Ljubicic entered a tiebreaker in the third. Roddick raced out to a 4-1 lead, but couldn't make it stand. He blew three set points and fell to Ljubicic, 13-11.

Roddick rallied to win the fourth set in a tiebreaker, had the rambunctious crowd roaring … and promptly was broken to start the fifth set.

Ljubicic was admittedly tired, and had to have a trainer rub his legs to relieve a sore knee in the middle of the set. But it was Roddick who folded like a poker player holding 2-6-9.

He wasted three break points in the fourth game, then was broken himself again in the fifth.

"I just played a loose game," Roddick said. "Bottom line, I didn't make him play good tennis."

There should be a sense of urgency for Roddick right now. At 22 he's in the heart of his tennis career. Despite that, what he needs right now is patience.

Instead of forcing Ljubicic to run around, wear down and make unforced errors, Roddick kept going for the kill. He often wound up whacking balls out of bounds or even against the back wall. A costly example came in the eighth game of the first set. Roddick led, 40-15, and went into attack mode.

But his forehand went wide, the beginning of a Ljubicic comeback that enabled him to break Roddick.

Roddick's still more power than precision. So even though he cranked his serve up to 150 mph, Ljubicic could handle him.

"I have much more difficulty to return the serves that are really accurate, not with all the power," Ljubicic said.

So the Davis Cup moves on without the United States, although I never can tell exactly what stage the competition is in. First round? Finals? Is it ever over? Who's the current champion? Does anyone know?

We don't know if we'll ever see Agassi compete for the United States again. And, from a figurative standpoint, who will stand beside Roddick to carry the American flag in the tennis world? Besides Roddick and Agassi (ninth), the only other American in the top 30 of the ATP rankings is Vince Spadea, at No. 18. And you don't see Spadea in any ESPN commercials.

When Agassi bungee-jumped up and down the world rankings, Sampras was always there as the steady force. There's no one else for Roddick right now, and he has yet to take the final step to the top.

"Andy is getting better," Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe said. "So are the other guys.

"He's doing a lot of things really well. He's just going to have to continue to work on that and continue to get better, because so is everybody else."

Ljubicic went out of his way to point out how impressed he was that Agassi dropped by the Croatian locker room to congratulate them and say how much he enjoyed watching the match.

"I appreciate that from him and I think he's a great person," Ljubicic said.

And, unfortunately, still the only American ambassador of tennis.

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Article Last Updated: 03/09/2005

It's difficult for U.S. stars to team up

INDIAN WELLS — It was an American team that won the Super Bowl, right? Just want to make sure that wasn't an hallucination.
We didn't win the Olympic gold medal in basketball, merely the game invented in the United States.

Last fall, the Great Britain and European golfers scuffed us around in the Ryder Cup.

And then a couple of days ago, in a first-round Davis Cup match in Carson, we were embarrassed by Croatia.

Not a lot of countries together, like the Ryder Cup, one lousy, little nation.

And on our home court, so to speak, the way the Euros beat us in the Ryder Cup on our home course, Oakland Hills.

The U.S. Davis Cup guys, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike, have traveled the 100 miles to the desert near Palm Springs where for the next two weeks the Pacific Life Open, considered one of the four major events outside of the Grand Slam tournaments, will be held at 16,000-seat Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Presumably, they'll do well. Just the way Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have done well.

When they're playing against each other.

They certainly didn't do very well when they were with each other.

It must be something in our psyche. Or something in our water.

Get Phil and Tiger together for a couple of Ryder Cup matches and they not only can't get the ball on the fairway or in the hole, seemingly they can't get along.

Separate them at Doral Country Club and put them head-to-head in the Ford Championship, and they not only create drama that draws 35,000 fans and golf's best television rating since the U.S. Open in June but offer words of respect to the opponent.

"I watched it from start to finish," Hal Sutton, captain of last year's beaten U.S. Ryder Cup team told the Associated Press. "What part of my body wouldn't say, 'Where was this in September?' We all knew both were capable of that. I don't know why they didn't do it together."

Why don't Americans in other sports do well together? Why should great NBA players linking up with other great NBA players fall 20 points behind Puerto Rico in the Olympics?

Why did Roddick, No.3 in the world, Agassi, No.9 and the Bryan twins, No.2 in world doubles, all lose in Davis Cup, virtually to one man, Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic? Ljubicic beat both Roddick and Agassi in singles and teamed with Mario Ancic in doubles.

Three years ago, before the matches in England, Tiger issued the most provocative statement about the Ryder Cup, admitting he placed more importance on winning the previous week's American Express Championships and the $1 million first-place check than he did the Ryder Cup.

Nobody made any similar comments about Davis Cup. What Todd Martin, a former Cup player in attendance at Indian Wells, said was, "I was a little bit surprised about the doubles. Ljubicic has been playing well enough that you could conceive him winning two singles. But I didn't expect him to win the doubles as well.

"But I wouldn't say the team is struggling. We ran into a guy who this year is playing as well as the best player in the world. (Roger Federer)."

Paul Annacone, also an American Davis Cup player and a former coach of Pete Sampras, reminded that last year the U.S. reached the finals before losing to Spain in Barcelona.

"Without Andre," mused Annacone. "Then as soon as Andre plays, with Andy, and we're here in the states you figure it's automatic, cruise control. But the line is so fine, that when one guy plays really well, it changes the match. It doesn't happen much, but it does happen."

"The Ryder Cup," said Annacone, "presents formats, alternate shots, four-ball, pro golfers normally don't play.

"But the Davis Cup is still what we do all the time, a match," he said. "It's just the pressure that's different. And it takes a lot out of you, a week before to get ready, a week after to unwind."

Said Martin: "Croatia? They've beaten us twice in four years. There are countries that used to just recognize soccer now are playing everything. Kids starting young in tennis, golf, basketball."

And the United States, seemingly is losing to them all.

Art Spander has earned a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He can be reached at
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March 14, 2005, 12:42AM


Pacific Life field lacking
Indian Wells tourney missing several top names on women's side

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

If the men's draw at the Pacific Life Open — the first mini-major of the tennis season — represented a quorum of the game's best and the brightest, the women's bracket was less complete. Four former but active No. 1s were conspicuously missing from the California tournament for physical and, let's say, philosophical reasons.

There is no word on when Jennifer Capriati, who underwent major shoulder surgery in January, will be able to resume playing full time or even if she will. At least Justine Henin-Hardenne, ranked first this time a year ago, is slated to make her latest comeback next week at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla.

Injuries and illness have kept Henin-Hardenne's participation spotty and her play erratic since she won the 2004 Australian Open, coming off the 2003 U.S. Open

Serena and Venus Williams also will be in the Miami field chasing the $3,115,000 purse, the WTA's largest in the United States except for Flushing Meadow. Serena slightly injured her shoulder in Dubai, blaming "heavy balls," but that had nothing to do with why the reigning Australian Open champion skipped Indian Wells.

She and her sister, Venus, have said they never will play there again because of an ugly reaction from the Pacific Life crowd when Venus defaulted a much-anticipated final between the sisters a number of years ago. In those days, there were lingering rumors Venus and Serena did everything they could to avoid playing each other, and the fans' jeering indicated they had judged Venus' alleged injury to be bogus.

But later, both Williamses and their father Richard would suggest the crowd's response was racist. The bad blood never has dissipated, on either

U.S. Davis Cup loss irks Mack

Jim McIngvale is peeved. He is convinced the U.S. Davis Cup team's surprising first-round loss to Croatia at Carson, Calif., last weekend never would have happened at his Westside Tennis Club, where he insists the home-court advantage does mean something.

The loss that upset him was Bob and Mike Bryan falling to Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic in the doubles. That put the Americans in a 2-1 hole starting the final day, and Andy Roddick then was beaten by Ljubicic, the hottest player on the ATP Tour save for Roger Federer.

"The Bryans have won two Masters Cups at Westside," McIngvale said. "You can't tell me that's a coincidence. We've got the best fans, the best atmosphere in the world out there. No way we wouldn't have pulled them through."

McIngvale has tried to convince the United States Tennis Association to make Westside its Davis Cup base of operations, but the USTA prefers to spread the wealth, thinking it needs to put ties in different markets. Bah, Mack says.

"All I know is," he said, "for $120 million (the USTA's annual budget, according to McIngvale), how do you lose to Croatia? I guarantee you they don't beat us here."

Aggies gig 'em

Texas tennis is serious stuff, even if California and Florida hog the limelight. For proof, I offer up the results of the USA Team Tennis National Campus Championships, which Texas A&M has won three times in four years — twice by beating the University of Texas in the final.

The Aggie Tennis Club captured its second title in a row Saturday night, beating the Longhorns 26-22 at San Diego. A record 48 teams from around the country participated in the tournament, which determined national champions for coed, non-varsity club and intramural tennis teams.

Texas A&M opened the day with a 25-20 semifinal victory over Harvard before beating UT in the final. The Aggies also defeated Texas in the 2002 final at Austin and then lost to Florida in 2003 before beating Virginia last year. They have won 15 matches in a row in the event, founded in

A&M's Kim Mathews, a senior from Nacogdoches, was the star of the day, winning singles and doubles with Selyna Nu ñez.

Changes at Westside

Chris Young, Westside's popular tournament director, has left the club and the tennis whirl altogether to go to work in fund-raising. The club also has a new head pro, with Scott Muller having replaced Nigel Waithe.

Linda McIngvale, who runs the club while her husband sells furniture, has appointed herself interim tournament director. If Linda decides she does a good job, she might keep it.

Young cut her tournament director's teeth running the River Oaks International before she moved to Westside when McIngvale bought the Clay Court's dates.

Roddick at River Oaks

He won't play in the tournament next month, but Andy Roddick will keep alive an almost unbroken succession of superstars to trod on River Oaks' center court, one of the country's most storied and beautiful tennis venues. He and childhood buddy Mardy Fish are going to face off April 7 in what has become a traditional Thursday night exhibition.

Two years ago, Fish flew in and walloped John McEnroe, but this time he is picking on somebody his own age.

Most rising stars have passed through the River Oaks International before reaching professional prominence — precocious 15-year-old Donald Young Jr. becomes the latest this year — but the third-ranked Roddick did not. The one year he entered, he was summoned away at the last minute to be a hitting partner for the U.S. Davis Cup team in Los Angeles.

Otherwise, every A-list player since the 1930s is believed to have set foot on the River Oaks courts at one time or another except for Sweden's Stefan Edberg. Andre Agassi slipped through anonymously, losing a first-round match there when he was 16.

Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang also dropped by to pay their respects before they became rich and famous.
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Davis Cup losing its appeal to U.S. fans

Published March 15, 2005

The combination of Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick was supposed to propel the United States past Croatia in the Davis Cup's first round while giving the event a much-needed injection of American interest.

It did neither.

Croatia advanced 3-2, and despite the star power of Agassi and Roddick, few Americans seemed to care, as evidenced by TV ratings that were nothing short of abysmal. Locally, the March 6 conclusion drew a 0.1 rating. The same day, something called Fairly Odd Parents on Nickelodeon had a 2.9. That kind of puts things in perspective, wouldn't you say?

The U.S. team's defeat isn't worth panicking about. After all, anything can happen on any given day, so the fact Agassi, Roddick and the doubles team of brothers Bob and Mike Bryan lost does not signal the end of American tennis.

But the ratings slide is particularly troubling. Once a fan favorite stateside, the Davis Cup has become insignificant to the casual fan. The United States hasn't won the title since 1995, and that doesn't help, but the greater problem might be its scheduling - at least to Americans. Only die-hards know when the next round is and who's playing whom. The Cup is worked around an already crowded men's schedule, not the other way around.

NBC analyst Bud Collins thinks it's too spread out. ESPN commentator Cliff Drysdale , a former Davis Cup player for South Africa, has a plan he thinks would generate interest. He says the matches should be played over several consecutive weeks. "I'd like to see it every weekend," Drysdale told the Times last year.

The question is, when is a good time? The suggestion here would be to play the 16-team main draw every December (the qualifying matches can be held earlier), when the schedule is light. That way, there might be an actual buildup to the final.

Will it happen? The International Tennis Federation, the world governing body and the organization responsible for running the Davis Cup, has not expressed interest in changing things.

DRESS FOR SUCCESS: The father of rising star Sania Mirza thinks the short dresses worn by players stop some Indian parents from letting their daughters play. "Many Hindu, Muslim and Christian parents have told me that the tennis dress is working as a deterrent against sending their girls to the court," Imran Mirza told the Asian Age newspaper. "Is there a possibility of changing it to suit our needs?" WTA Tour rules state only that players must dress appropriately in tennis attire. In other words, there's a certain bit of freedom. Short dresses and shorts are optional. Then again, so are long ones.

ODDS AND ENDS:, the Web site for Tennis Magazine , is celebrating its 10-year anniversary by relaunching the site, coinciding with the yearlong celebration of the magazine's 40th anniversary. The redesign focuses on educating tennis enthusiasts and connecting them through interactive features. ... The USTA and Polo Ralph Lauren reached a deal that designated Polo as the official apparel sponsor of the U.S. Open through 2008. ... Daniela Hantuchova is the latest WTA star to hit the glossy pages with a provocative photo spread. Hantuchova, a 21-year-old Slovakian ranked No. 22 in the world, was featured in a recent edition of Italian Vogue . ... Pete Sampras and his wife, actor Bridgette Wilson-Sampras , are expecting their second child this fall. They have a 2-year-old son, Christian . ... Tickets remain for the March 21 Mercedes-Benz Classic at the St Pete Times Forum in Tampa. The lineup includes Agassi, Jim Courier , James Blake and Mardy Fish . Proceeds benefit the Raymond James Courier's Kids Foundation. For information, call 813 301-2500 or visit
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March 16, 2005

Dent Sends Safin Home Early

Russian, ranked fourth in the world, can't handle his opponent's big serve-and-volley game and loses in straight sets at the Pacific Life Open.


By Bill Dwyre, Times Staff Writer

It will be written that the demons that have haunted Marat Safin for years in the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament popped up again Tuesday night, as he made his usual early departure. In fact, what popped up was the temporary reincarnation of Boris Becker.

Only this boom-boom, serve-and-volley player was a Southern California kid named Taylor Dent, the pride of Newport Beach, whose high-risk game paid the ultimate dividend on Center Court, a 7-5, 6-4 shocker over the fourth-seeded Australian Open champion.

In an age of tennis where the practice of following the serve to the net has become low percentage, as more tournaments are played on slower courts, more baseline bangers beget carbon copies and players spend hours working on passing shots and minutes on volleying, the day of the true serve-and-volley player is mostly a memory.

That makes Dent's devotion to it more exceptional.

Afterward, Safin, a colorful Russian who has been the only player this year to beat the unbeatable Roger Federer, doing so in the semifinals at the Australian, said he lost because "I played the worst match I ever played, maybe in my entire career."

He also said he felt like "I wasn't even there," and said that most frustrating was that he wasn't even winning points from the baseline. "That says a lot, because, from there, I am better than him."

All true, but what he didn't say was that that is how an effective serve-and-volley player makes you feel — like you aren't there. Becker did it better than almost anybody. Stefan Edberg was a little slicker, relying less on a big serve and more on serving and volleying angles. Pete Sampras could do it at will, but didn't live and die with it like Becker, Edberg and Richard Krajicek.

Dent, 23, at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, is a throwback, a Becker big-banger. Of course, to be a Becker or a Safin, he is several major titles shy, and he knows it.

"I can't really compare my career to Safin's yet," he said. "He's had an unbelievable career. I think 99% of the players out there would take his two Slams and all the titles he's won."

However, a lot fewer than 99% of the players out there would be willing to take Safin's record at Indian Wells, where he has a 9-6 record and has never advanced past the fourth round.

"Today, I couldn't put two balls in the court," he said, "and it's really frustrating that it happens, especially here in Indian Wells, at a Tennis Masters Series event."

Safin finished the match with the ultimate frustration, a double fault.

He had begun by losing the first three games, then breaking to get back to 3-3, then 5-5. With Dent serving, Safin, despite playing the "worst match of his career," had three shots at the set with three break points. He converted none of those, especially the one where Dent threw a 136-mph first serve at him. Then Dent broke him in the next game, when he won an exchange of drop shots, and suddenly, the No. 4 player in the world was down a set.

In the second set, Dent's serve continued to contribute to the "worst match" of Safin's career by starting with a hold at love, finishing out one game with a 131-mph ace and never facing a break point. Safin, on the other hand, had to save five break points at 1-2, two more at 2-3 and even got lucky at 4-5 when a double fault at 15-all wasn't called and he won the point. But soon, he hit a backhand wide, and Dent was at match point.

And when Safin's second serve missed well long, the handful of serve-and-volley players left in the game nodded, because one of them had had a moment, brief as they are these days. One statistic told all: When he got his first serve in, Dent won all but one of the points.

At one point in his press conference, while describing what went right, Dent said that he was "sticking" his volley. But he didn't just say it, he gestured a well-hit, backhand volley with his arm. In his press conferences, Becker often did the same thing.

In addition to the Dent upset, Tuesday's play produced a marquee round-of-16 match. Federer, in total control as usual, stopped Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, 6-3, 6-2, and will play Croatian Davis Cup hero Ivan Ljubicic, who beat the Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych, 6-4, 6-1.

Ljubicic has lost three times to Federer this year, all in finals, the last two in tough three-setters. They will put that match on Center Court on Wednesday, starting no sooner than 8:30 p.m.

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Tennis mailbag, with CNN's Candy Reid

Thursday, March 17, 2005 Posted: 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)

(CNN) -- Do you have a question about tennis for World Sport Anchor Candy Reid? E-mail

Q. Hi Candy. Serena Williams pulled out of her Dubai Open semi-final, blaming the ball for her injury. Tell me if Serena has a point or is she just being her usual "ungracious self" and making excuses instead of congratulating her opponent and accepting defeat. Even when she wins she is still very ungracious. Always making out like it could have been a better victory if she wasn't playing under stress from one mysterious ailment or the other.
Regards, Tony, Nigeria.

A. Tony, I agree that Serena is not always the most gracious loser but there aren't too many on the women's tour that are (Kim Clijsters and Lindsay Davenport being the obvious exceptions.) I often hear both Serena and Venus saying after they have lost a match "well she played well ... but I was absolutely awful" or something to that effect. I'm sure these kinds of things are said because even though they know their opponent played well, saying it out loud may give that player extra confidence next time they meet. However, there's no doubt Serena was struggling with an arm injury during that match and the heaviness of the balls may well have been to blame. If you strike it late or not quite on the 'sweet spot' a heavy ball (or a ball which is wet) can cause all kinds of problems.

Q. Hey Candy! I actually saw you play for the University of Tennessee back in the day. My question is about Andy Roddick. I think his game is too one-dimensional for him to add to his major haul. He has a big serve but not much else to rely on. To me he's just another Ivanisevic or Philippoussis. If an opponent like Safin or Hewitt can withstand his big serve, Roddick doesn't have a "Plan B" and will likely lose. I feel his BH and net play needs work for him to truly be one of the best. Your thoughts?
Nick Keller, Dallas, Texas

A. Well Nick, I think Andy would agree that his backhand and volley need to improve for him to grab a few more grand-slams. And it's obvious he's been working on both. He's been getting up to the net a lot more recently and with that serve why not? If he can win a few more easy points then it's going to help him in the majors which of course require you to win 7 matches to be the champ. Okay, so his backhand may not be the weapon his forehand is, but he's using the slice much more now to change it up and if he can improve his backhand down the line and turn it in to a winning shot then more trophies will be hitting him on the head! I believe he has a better all-around game than both Ivanisevic and Philippoussis and that reflects in his ranking and the fact that he's very consistent. I can't remember the last time that Roddick lost in the first round of a tournament. Can you?

Q. Who (overall) has been the most consistent female player over the last 3 years?
Sowari Wilcox

A. Hmmm, tough one Sowari. I'd have to say Lindsay Davenport. Alright she hasn't won a Grand-Slam in over five years now but she's got to at least the 4th round in every Major she's played in since 2002. She's also won 9 tournaments in that time and has played in countless finals. Perhaps though, she wins by default -- so many of the other top players have been forced to take time off through injury and/or illness in the past few years.

Q. Candy, why does Roy Emerson get no respect from the media or tennis fans when talking about the best players of all time? He won 12 majors, including the career Grand Slam twice over. I'm too young to have seen Emerson play but it sound like he was unstoppable.
Bradley Smith, Columbus, OH

A. Well Bradley, I suppose it's because Emerson's last major win came in 19-67 and so many tennis fans like you didn't get the opportunity to see him in action. His name, in fact, only really came up when Pete Sampras was close to breaking his Grand-Slam record in 2000.

Q. Hi Candy my name is Camilia and I'm from Espoo, Finland. I'm a huge Daniela Hantuchova fan. What do you think of her recent form and will she be able to get back into the top 10?

A. It's great to see Hantuchova winning again and looking healthy and happy on court Camilia. She certainly is one of the most graceful players on tour. However, I don't think she's going to get back to her 2002 heights when she got into the top 10. She's a top 20 player in my opinion, and definitely capable of beating some big names from time to time.
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Hits and misses, just like a scud

Philippoussis set to launch another rally

By Charles Bricker
Staff Writer
Posted March 18 2005

SUNRISE · It has been 10 years since Mark Philippoussis, then just 18 years old, was anointed the man to challenge Pete Sampras' domination of tennis -- 10 years in which his career has coughed and sputtered and risen and fallen with his fitness level.

Thursday, his ranking having slipped from No. 8 after his runner-up finish at the 2003 Wimbledon to No. 191, the newly engaged Philippoussis was once again trying to resurrect himself after missing more than two months this year to a strained adductor muscle.

"Matches. I need matches. And the more matches I play, the confidence will come out," Philippoussis said after defeating Jeff Morrison 6-3, 7-6 (7) in a first-round match at the $100,000 Pro Tennis World Open.

He served well enough at the right moments, crashing nine aces, and his mobility looked OK for a man in need of rust remover. But you couldn't fault his fight. His game might be nowhere near his 178-ace run through Wimbledon two years ago, but there was nothing wrong with his competitiveness.

With his 18-year-old fiancée, Alexis Barbera, clapping his best shots from her sideline seat, the man they call "The Scud Missile" got a major gift when Morrison missed a simple volley at 5-3 in the tiebreak, giving Philippoussis the opening he needed to rally back and close out the match.

It was also a good day for No. 1 seed Dominik Hrbaty, who, like Philippoussis, avoided having to play a second match during the evening because of persistent rain that struck the hardcourts at 4 p.m. and wiped out the rest of the day's program.

Hrbaty's exquisite backhand was crackling, and his forehand wasn't missing, either. He snapped off 10 service returns for winners in a 6-2, 6-3 win over hard-serving Peter Wessels.

Also Thursday: No. 2 seed Luis Horna, playing only his second match since the Australian Open, was beaten by Tomas Zib 6-3, 6-2; No. 5 Igor Andreev defeated qualifier Alex Bogomolov, a graduate of Sunset High School in Miami; and No. 7 Alberto Martin just beat the rain with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Bohdan Ulihrach.

In matches placed in suspension until today: Gilles Simon of France led countryman Julien Benneteau 6-4, 4-2 and Florian Mayer of Germany was at 6-0, 1-4 with compatriot Bjorn Phau.

The tournament, hoping not to get dangerously behind, will begin play at 10 today instead of noon.

"When the time's right, the time's right," Philippoussis said of his engagement to the Miami student and model. But he wouldn't talk further about this impending major change in his life.

"I just want to talk about tennis," he said. "I don't want to get into personal things."

For years, the 6-foot-4 Philippoussis has been the subject of countless stories in the Australian press about real or alleged romances with Anna Kournikova, Paris Hilton and numerous other Aussie entertainment personalities.

According to those who know him well, Philippoussis is planning a postseason wedding, either in November or December, and a move out of Delray Beach, though he's not sure of his next residential destination.

The new relationship might have a calming effect on his life in general, but it's hard to see how it will affect his ongoing struggle with injuries, though he insisted Thursday that "I'm stronger than I was when I reached the final at Wimbledon."

Philippoussis will play the clever Belgian Christophe Rochus today, and Hrbaty moves into the second round against former Delray Beach titlist Davide Sanguinetti.

Ranked 27th, Hrbaty, the leading player in the Slovak Republic, played strong, very aggressive tennis from the baseline to thwart the big-serving Wessels.

Thursday's results First round: Dominik Hrbaty d. Peter Wessels 6-2, 6-3; Mark Philippoussis d. Jeff Morrison 6-3, 7-6 (7); Jan-Michael Gambill d. Tobias Summerer 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4); Second round: Alberto Martin d. Bohdan Ulihrach 6-3, 6-4; Igor Andreev d. Alex Bogomolov 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4; Tomas Zib d. Luis Horna 6-3, 6-2. Today's schedule Center court: Florian Mayer vs. Bjorn Phau (completion of suspended match), 10 a.m.; Dominik Hrbatry vs. Davide Sanguinetti; Mark Philippoussis vs. Christophe Rochus, 1 p.m. Court 9: Gilles Simon vs. Julien Benneteau (completion of suspended match), 10 a.m.; Jan-Michael Gambill vs. Karol Beck; Gilles Simon or Julien Benneteau vs. Tomas Zib.

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Quiet, reserved Federer is more than a typical tennis star

By Jerry Green / The Detroit News

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Most of them are extra tall and wear their hair to their shoulders. The men and the women, both. They speak Russian or Spanish or German as their first language, though the grunts when they hit the tennis balls are identical in any language. They are young, rich, well traveled and terribly pampered.

When the sun shines -- as it usually does here in the California desert -- the athletes are shaded during the rest intervals beneath umbrellas wielded by scurrying youngsters with their own lofty aspirations.

From this collection of athletic aristocrats, Roger Federer has emerged to become the champion of the tennis set. He is genuine, and his game is pure, and he stands in at a normal 6-foot-1.

Federer, in the past year, has become the most dominant athlete in sports. I think of Tiger Woods when he was hot and blistered every golf course. This Federer guy, at age 23, is hotter.

He is as hot as Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were -- combined -- during the boom years of tennis. He is as hot as Pete Sampras was when the sport dipped into its decline. As hot as Rod Laver generations ago. As hot as Boris Becker when he arrived with sudden thunder, diving and tumbling and winning at Wimbledon.

"The most talented player I ever laid eyes on," McEnroe often has said publicly to journalists.

And as we all know, John sometimes is prone to dipping into the tart, critical, sarcastic commentary about athletes in the sport he once popularized in America.

Similar to McEnroe? Roger Federer is hardly a John McEnroe. On the court, his body language is well below the demonstrative level displayed by the angry young tennis athletes of years ago. Off the court, to this first-time viewer, he seems quiet and self-effacing.

But he is a championship tennis player. Wimbledon two years ago. Australian, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year. Three-quarters of the grand slam in 2004, just like Connors 30 years before. McEnroe never did that. Borg and Sampras never did that. No men's singles player had won three grand slam events in the same year since Mats Wilander in 1988.

And in America, Federer still is woefully under-publicized. He remains relatively unknown except to those who relish the sport so much that they attend matches dressed as wannabees in their own tennis costumes.

Once he broke through at Wimbledon in July of 2003, all of it has been quite simple for Federer. Sort of.

"When I go into a match, that's what I think about, that it's going to be a tough one even though I'm a big favorite," Federer said this week as he dominated another tournament on his championship tour around the world.

He had just rubbed out another opponent, Gilles Muller from Luxembourg, in the Pacific Life Open at the pristine Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The score was 6-3, 6-2. Federer felt he had been challenged -- and perhaps he was.

"I had the match under control all the time," Federer said. "Maybe the match took longer than it usually does. I took too many chances. We had a couple of long games."

Very simple, an account of another crush job.

Roger from Switzerland, playing in his powder-blue shorts and matching tennis shoes, wearing his white headband with the Nike swoosh, and ferociously swinging his red-and-white racquet with the Wilson W etched onto the strings.

These international athletes have become human billboards for American sporting goods purveyors.

Observed from high above the deep purple Stadium 1 Court of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Federer displays a tennis game that combines power with deftness and the ability to chase down shots. On the occasional point, he forces himself to dive onto the hard court surface. Something out of Boris Becker.

"You almost have to mix it up, you know?" Federer would say after his victory.

He wows the crowd with a backhand winning shot into a corner. His one-handed backhand, he says proudly later, shunning the two-fisted style now used by most of these tennis vagabonds.

He lambastes his strokes from the backcourt, then wins a set with a drop shot from near the net.

From my perch, Federer reminds me of a crafty pitcher. His serve is clocked at 121 miles an hour, then an ace at 126 miles per -- and then he breaks it up with a twisting first serve clocked at slow-motion 90.

Similar to McEnroe?

There was an obvious bad call the other day. Federer pointed to the where Muller's serve had landed -- out.

Federer muttered a word or two.

After his victory, he discussed his language skills.

"English, French and German," he said, hesitating, then continuing, "Swiss German and some Italian."

What he muttered when he was dismayed was in English.

"Anything," he said.

Becker was the player Federer watched when he was a lad learning tennis in the Swiss city of Basel. Federer would watch as the TV flicked the signal in from Wimbledon in the 1980s.

"He was always there," Federer said. "He was my favorite player. He was from Germany, I'm from Switzerland, you know, we're neighbors."

Federer is 24-1 in his matches this early in 2005. He has already won three tournaments -- the Doha, Rotterdam and Dubai events -- while trotting the globe. He plays today in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open, a tournament he won last year along with his three grand slam victories.

But it takes four to win the grand slam. And Federer is not destined to win the grand slam this year as Laver did in 1969. Federer missed out by losing in the French last year. His solitary loss this year was in the Australian to Marat Safin, from the Russian contingent.

Some year, the grand slam -- the Australian, French, Wimbledon and the U.S. Opens in succession - will be won again, in one calendar year.

And Roger Federer is just 23, only recently emerged -- and hot. The most talented player John McEnroe ever laid eyes on!

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March 21, 2005

LTA's pursuit of Connors ends in failure
From Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent in Indian Wells, California

“I LIKE my life the way it is; I’d just like something else to do.” That was Pete Sampras talking last week. It could just as easily have been Jimmy Connors’ thoughts a few months ago when he heard that the LTA were coming to call because they wanted someone high-profile to help to toughen up the young players in their charge.
The Connors deal, trumpeted with as much enthusiasm as was John McEnroe’s involvement at Queen’s Club the year before last (McEnroe did hit for a couple of hours with a group of juniors before moving on to something more important), has fallen through over money, about as surprising as anyone believing it would work in the first place.

What looked brilliant on paper, and in them, was always susceptible to the forces of finance and once the LTA and its partners could not raise enough it came a cropper, which is probably just as well. Connors had been peeved that his own USTA had not entertained his working for them, but they remembered this great champion saying not many moons ago that he was not remotely interested in tennis.

What would have made him change his mind so abruptly? Could it be USTA/LTA largesse? Better that the money is invested more wisely. As Sampras said when the subject of McEnroe and Connors working for the LTA was raised and that with a bit of spare time on his hands, maybe he would like to join the search for a cadre of potential champions: “Yeah, for my first coming out party that’s what I’ll do,” he said, rocking back in the sofa. “Send me to Surrey to see if I can find some local talent.”

There have been too many encouraging signs of progress in the LTA’s performance programme in the past few months for the sport to be sidetracked trying to find time for egos such as Connors and McEnroe, who have had no experience of coaching anyway. Let them get at each other’s throats in the commentary box, rather than fake an interest in coaching and developing British juniors.

Speaking of coaches, Roger Federer is performing very handily without one to call on except in an emergency, which makes Tony Roche’s task relatively simple. The meeting of the two best players in the world in the Pacific Life Open final yesterday was never a stroll for the Swiss, but he had that little bit extra than Lleyton Hewitt, which is saying something.

Hewitt normally wears his opponents down to the point of frazzling their minds — as he managed against Andy Roddick in the semi-finals. To do that against Federer requires more than any player has managed in recent times, other than Marat Safin in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January. Hewitt, hindered by an injury to the sole of his right foot, made impressions although never enough to offer the sustained promise of denying Federer the retention of his title.

The final will, perhaps, be remembered for one point rather than the victor. At 1-1 in the second set, a rally of extraordinary range, brilliant athleticism and gung-ho strokes, ended with Federer flicking a forehand crosscourt and Hewitt, lunging like a goalkeeper, plucking it out of the air with a winning forehand volley. A one-minute standing ovation was the sweetest of symphonies. It did not get any better than that for the Australian, whose consolation was that he broke Federer ’s serve midway through the third set to prolong matters. Eventually, he went down 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. Another routine few days in the sun for the world No 1.
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March 23, 2005

Henman has fitness plan to realise his Wimbledon title dream

By Gary Jacob

TIM HENMAN is nearly a pensioner in tennis terms, but the British No 1’s flirtation with winning Wimbledon is to continue for a few years yet. After a decade of competition that has taken its toll on his frame, Henman has said that his body feels good enough to be able to play until his mid-thirties.
He will be 31 in September and dedicates up to an extra hour per day in gym and exercise time just to keep his back in condition for the rigours on court. “There’s no reason why I can’t play on for another three or four more years,” Henman said. “Look at the way [Andre] Agassi’s been playing. He’s changed people’s thinking about the age [34] you’re meant to be retiring.”

Henman, who has been in indifferent form, has reached four Wimbledon semi-finals in his quest to become the first Briton to win the men’s singles title since Fred Perry in 1936. “They want me to win it, it’s the one I want to win as well,” Henman said. “When I first went to Wimbledon, that was my ultimate ambition. Certainly, I’ll be looking to give it another crack this year.”

The notion that Henman would dominate Wimbledon once Pete Sampras retired seemed to ignore the fact that other great players would emerge, such as Roger Federer, who has won the past two Wimbledon titles. “I just need to raise it one more level and if I do that it’ll be a pretty exciting fortnight,” Henman said. “The support that I get playing in those surroundings outweighs the negatives. I’ve played the best tennis of my career at Wimbledon.”
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The Sun-Sentinel.Com

Roddick gets a break

By Charles Bricker
Staff Writer
Posted March 22 2005

KEY BISCAYNE · If this Nasdaq-100 Open follows form, at least through the first three rounds, defending champion Andy Roddick will be revisiting a couple of Davis Cup nemeses to whom he owes paybacks.

Now living part-time in Boca Raton and Austin, Texas, Roddick received something of a break even before the draw was pulled Monday afternoon when No. 2-ranked Lleyton Hewitt pulled out of the tournament with a toe injury.

That pushed Roddick into the No. 2 seed, which means he couldn't face Roger Federer, the current god of the tennis universe, until a final. He got no luck from the draw, however.

He is very likely to face young Spanish star Rafael Nadal in the third round and Ivan Ljubicic in the fourth. Nadal whipped him on clay in the Davis Cup final in December vs. Spain, and Ljubicic took him down in Croatia's upset of the United States this month.

In the top of the draw, Federer, 26-1 for the season and 100-7 since the start of the 2004 season, has good players facing him before the semis -- probably Paradorn Srichaphan, Tommy Haas and Joachim Johansson. But what does it matter. He's beating everyone.

Statistically, Federer is rolling up the sort of numbers Pete Sampras once registered at Wimbledon. Starting with the 2004 U.S. Open, he has won 42 of his 43 matches -- the only defeat to Marat Safin in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

He has won 97 of the 109 sets he has played and, during that period, compiled a 12-1 record against top-10 opponents.

On the women's side, tournament officials could not convince No. 1 Lindsay Davenport to play, making Amelie Mauresmo the No. 1 seed and the only player who could replace Davenport at the top of the rankings at the conclusion of the Nasdaq.

Mauresmo would have to make the final to get back to No.1.

Three-time defending champion Serena Williams, seeded third, gets a first-round bye and then the winner of Vera Douchevina vs. Emilie Loit in the second round. Sister Venus also has a bye, then the winner of Anna-Lena Groenefeld vs. a qualifier in the second.

The Williams sisters are on the same side of the draw and could only meet in the quarterfinals. They haven't played each other since the 2003 Wimbledon final.

The Draw

Notable first-round matchup: The tallest on the men's tour, 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic, faces the shortest, 5-foot-5 Olivier Rochus. They've split two matches with Rochus winning at the Boca Raton challenger last year. This could be a difficult handshake at net.

Karol Beck of Slovakia, who won the $100,000 Pro Tennis World challenger at Sunrise on Sunday, is on target for a second-round match against slumping Sebastien Grosjean of Boca.

French reporters, who lose six hours to deadline here, will be hoping for an early start to the match between countryman Michael Llodra and 18-year-old rising star Gael Monfils -- an intriguing first-rounder.

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Posted 3/23/2005 12:54 AM



Rivalry comes full circle in Florida

By Douglas Robson, Special for USA TODAY

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — One is muscular, powerful, fleet-footed and African-American. The other is lithe, leggy, blond and Russian. Both immovable forces that first met on this sandy strip of land southeast of Miami at the Nasdaq-100, which begins today.
Serena Williams powered past Maria Sharapova in straight sets on her way to a third consecutive title in Key Biscayne in that first meeting 12 months ago. But three emotionally charged matches since have turned Williams-Sharapova into one of the most compelling rivalries in women's tennis in years.

"The fact that all the matches we've had have been so dramatic and intense and everybody has been curious about what's going to happen — I guess that makes it a rivalry," says Sharapova, who is making her third appearance at the NASDAQ-100.

After losing in straight sets to Williams in the fourth round here, the ingénue from Siberia upset the two-time defending Wimbledon champ 6-1, 6-4 in the Wimbledon final, and then overcame a hobbled Williams in another topsy-turvy final at November's WTA Championships in Los Angeles.

In the semifinals of January's Australian Open, Williams returned the favor, staving off three match points — two with dramatic forehand winners — to knock off Sharapova in three sets en route to a seventh Grand Slam title. Their head-to-head record stands at 2-2.

"I definitely think she has a fighting spirit, and I think that's gotten her to where she is today," Williams said after their Melbourne match, in a nod of respect.

However, it's not just close matches from which classic rivalries are hewn.

Contrasting styles or cultures, frequent meetings on big-time stages and opposing physical makeups all play a role. That's what made the iron curtain-born, net-charging Martina Navratilova the perfect foil to the baseline-hugging, American sweetheart Chris Evert.

Great rivalries also need an intangible excitement, something that makes the atmosphere crackle with anticipation. "Even if you don't understand it, you feel it," explains tennis legend Billie Jean King.

The viewing public appears to agree. Their Australian Open semifinal on ESPN2 drew more than 1 million households, making it the most-watched tennis telecast ever on the cable station at the time. ESPN's broadcast of their WTA Championships clash surpassed the previous year's final by 189%.

While off the court Williams, ranked No. 4, and Sharapova, No. 3, are consumed with their stylish sides — Williams dabbles in her own line of fashion wear, and Sharapova her own eponymous perfume — but deep down both are never-say-die competitors.

They yelp. They thigh-slap in the first game of matches. They fist pump and glare. It's up-close combat the game has not seen in a while.

"They just have this primal fight," says ESPN commentator and two-time U.S. Open champ Tracy Austin.

"Compelling rivalries make for great television and have always been good for tennis," says NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer. "It's much too early to say if Sharapova-Serena has the makings of (Bjorn) Borg-(John) McEnroe, (Pete) Sampras-(Andre) Agassi or Evert-Navratilova, but both players have dynamic games and personalities that offer that potential."

The similarities are striking, too. Both reside in Florida, have go-for-broke baseline games, play with flamboyant emotion and were sculpted by dominating fathers who are often lightning rods for controversy. Both possess an insatiable desire to win. Off the court, they are opinionated, A-List celebrities with huge marketing power.

A bit of iciness can also spice up a rivalry. After her Wimbledon defeat, Williams claimed tongue-in-cheek that she hadn't actually been on the court. She grew irritated when asked if she considered Sharapova a rival on a recent conference call and insisted she had no memory of playing Sharapova in Key Biscayne.

"I honestly can't say I do," Williams huffed. "She would probably have a better memory than me."

When told of Williams' comments, Sharapova rolled her eyes.

"I'm sure she remembers playing me," she says. "After she lost at Wimbledon, she said she wasn't there, but I'm sure she knows."
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Ten key questions with Grand Slams looming

Dan Weil / Special to
Posted: 22 hours ago

Tennis' top players are gathering in Key Biscayne outside Miami for the U.S.' second biggest tournament of the year. The Nasdaq-100 Open begins Wednesday, and marks the end of the spring hardcourt season. With the year's three remaining Grand Slam tournaments looming on the horizon, 10 major questions dominate the tennis world.

1. Can anyone stop Roger Federer?
In a word, no. As Pete Sampras said recently, the Swiss wunderkind's biggest opponent now is the record book. The 23-year-old Federer already has racked up four major victories and is on course to challenge Sampras' record of 14. Federer is a genius shotmaker with no holes in his game. He moves as well as anyone in the sport and can hit any shot at any time. On top of that, he makes it look easy. Like Sampras, he barely seems to be working up a sweat. It's no wonder he's won 42 of 43 matches since the Olympics last year. If not for a narrow loss to Marat Safin at the Australian Open in January, Federer would be a serious threat to win the Grand Slam this year.

2. What's up with the Williams sisters?
Serena won the Australian Open for her first major victory since 2003. But she captured the crown more on guts and self-belief than the strength of her game. The 23-year-old has a good to chance to garner her fourth Nasdaq crown, but she isn't the dominant player she once was. Other players have caught up to her power. And while Serena is pre-occupied with acting and fashion design, others are working harder on their tennis. Serena hasn't made any improvements since dropping from No. 1 in 2003. Those points ring even truer with Venus. She really seemed to lose interest in tennis after Serena beat her in five consecutive major finals in 2002-2003. Look for the 24-year-old to continue her slow fade.

3. Can Marat Safin challenge Federer for No. 1?Not likely. Safin's results since his amazing Australian Open win in January have been disappointing. Whenever the 25-year-old Russian has raised expectations for greatness with big wins, like the 2000 US Open, he has quickly succumbed to the pressure. He's likely to fizzle not only at the Nasdaq but perhaps the final three slams of the year too. Safin plays his best tennis at the beginning of the year and at the end, when the pressure is lightest.

4. What's going on with the Belgian Bashers?
Former No. 1 Kim Clijsters and former No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne are back on tour from injuries. The likable Clijsters just won the Pacific Lite Open in Indian Wells. But the 21-year-old has shown a propensity for losing big matches throughout her career. She dropped all three of the major finals in which she played — all of them to her compatriot Henin-Hardenne. It is Henin-Hardenne who seems headed for greatness if she can get over injuries, the latest one being to her knee. Henin-Hardenne is the most exciting woman player since Australia's Evonne Goolagong in the 1970s. The 22-year-old is a bit like a female version of Roger Federer. She was dominating the game until a virus took her out of action last year. And it's no wonder why. She can do it all, and does it with grace and style.

5. What's Andre Agassi's story?
After a couple impressive wins, he had to pull out of the Pacific Lite Open last week with a toe injury. It's sad to say, but the 34-year-old Las Vegas native looks headed for retirement. Injuries are becoming a constant drumbeat for the man who has taken tennis fitness to a new level. And he appears to have lost a step. His eight major titles are quite an accomplishment, but don't expect a ninth.

6. How about those Russian women?
Three different Russians captured the last three majors last year, with Anastasia Myskina taking the French, Maria Sharapova winning Wimbledon and Svetlana Kuznetsova emerging victorious at the US Open. And the beautiful Elena Dementieva was runner-up at the French and US Open. Those players are here to stay, but perhaps Sharapova is a bit too busy chasing her $18 million in endorsements. She was destroyed 6-0, 6-0 by Lindsay Davenport in the Pacific Lite Open.

7. Can Andy Roddick get back to the top?
Probably not. The 22-year-old has the misfortune of coming into the prime of his career at the same time as Roger Federer. Roddick has a huge serve and forehand, great footspeed and feisty competitiveness. But his game is limited compared to Federer. If the Swiss Superman doesn't get injured, Roddick's 2003 US Open crown may be the only major title of his career.

8. Why is Lindsay Davenport the women's top-ranked player?
You can thank an arcane ranking system and a weak field for that. Davenport hasn't won a big match since the Australian Open in 2000. The good-natured 28-year-old has beautiful booming groundstrokes and a huge serve, but loses confidence in big moments. She was ready to retire last year until she went on a hot streak. This year may be it.

9. What can we expect from Lleyton Hewitt?
A lot of wins but no major titles. The tenacious Australian doesn't have enough game to challenge Federer — or Safin when the Russian is capable of coping with pressure. Hewitt, 24, does have Roddick's number, beating the American in six of their seven meetings. But unfortunately for Hewitt, the two are unlikely to meet in any major finals.

10. Where's Jennifer Capriati?
She's coming back from shoulder surgery at the Nasdaq, but sadly the 28-year-old's best days are behind her. She's unlikely to contend for any more major titles.
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Fish aces first-round test

By Charles Bricker
Staff Writer
Posted March 25 2005

KEY BISCAYNE · Mardy Fish said he thought he served great.

Great? He won his first 17 service points and cracked a career-high 34 aces, which might be a Key Biscayne record. No one was quite sure because the tournament doesn't keep that mark, but ATP officials were rummaging through past matches by Mark Philippoussis, Pete Sampras and Richard Krajicek, trying to sort it out.

The 7-6 (2), 6-7 (3), 6-3 win was only Fish's 10th match since connecting with Todd Martin as his coach in January. While Fish put together one of his best serving performances, his return game was not at its best. There was no question, however, about his improving fitness.

On a near-cloudless, 84-degree day, Fish triumphed in a 21/2-hour match.

"I've really worked hard off the court, so it's nice to see it paying off with matches like that, and not getting tired at the end," he said.

French flashback

Paul-Henri Mathieu, hero of France's Davis Cup win over Sweden earlier this month, won his opening match and now faces Andre Agassi, recalling one of the great performances of Agassi's French Open career.

Down two sets and a break in the third round in 2002, Agassi fought back in a round of 16 match to beat Mathieu in five sets, scoring on 12 drop shots.

Long hair disappears

Ponytails are disappearing. Roger Federer no longer has his, and Fish cut his long hair at the Australian Open.

"We were working out at the gym, and he suddenly left. When he came back, he had his head shaved. He didn't even tell me he was going to do it," said good buddy Andy Roddick.

Ginepri gets serious

Part of Robby Ginepri's training program with new coach Francisco Montana of Miami is a lot more two-a-days than he's used to between tournaments, plus doubles, doubles, doubles until he becomes an efficient volleyer.

Ginepri had lost 18 of 19 doubles matches with various partners, dating back to the 2003 season, when he and Jan-Michael Gambill made the semis at San Jose and quarters at Memphis this year.

He'll play Nasdaq doubles with his training partner, world-class volleyer Taylor Dent.

Federer reaching out

Like Agassi, Federer has a philanthropic foundation, but he's years behind Agassi in getting it better organized.

He says he'll possibly set up a meeting with Agassi to compare notes.

Ill-timed road work

Inexplicably, Dade County began doing road improvements Wednesday on the onramp from Key Biscayne to I-95, forcing a horrendous backup of cars six miles back to the Nasdaq site. After a conversation with tournament officials, they announced they have suspended that project until after April 3.
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U.S. men's hopes hurting early
Blake and Roddick are out, leaving Agassi and a pack of also-rans to take on the world at Nasdaq.


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, March 26, 2005

KEY BISCAYNE — Friday wasn't all that good for Andy Roddick.

And suddenly the Easter basket doesn't look so full for American men's tennis in general at the second-largest tournament on U.S. soil.

After one hour and 15 minutes, the top-ranked U.S. player pulled himself out of the Nasdaq-100 Open, the biggest tournament he won a year ago.

Roddick, ranked third in the world and seeded second here, retired with a right wrist sprain, trailing 7-6 (9), 4-3 to Fernando Verdasco of Spain. It marked earliest exit for a defending Nasdaq champion since Andre Agassi lost in the second round in 1997.

"My kick serves were a bit of a struggle, and so was really getting over on a forehand," Roddick said. "Trying to hit flat and hit my flat serves was OK, but you're only going to go so far without a second serve."

Roddick smashed his racket in anger after double-faulting three times in the tiebreaker. He handed the mangled racket to kids in the stands on the way out.

To defend the honor of American tennis, Roddick hands off to no kid, but to 10th-ranked Andre Agassi tonight. Agassi, 34, withdrew with a swollen toe from the Pacific Life Open last week but hopes to rally at a tournament he has won six times. Agassi meets No. 76 Paul-Henri Mathieu of France in the second match of the 7 p.m. session.

After that, who's left in the dugout of U.S. men's tennis? There's plenty of rankings room between the rest of the Americans and No. 1 Roger Federer of Switzerland, who faces 5-foot-5 Oliver Rochus of Belgium today in the third match of the 11 a.m. session.

No. 23 Vince Spadea of Boca Raton, who beat fellow American and world No. 68 Robbie Ginepri 6-3, 6-4 Friday, says it is time for somebody to play big off the U.S. bench.

"Andre's a great example for any athlete, and Roddick's been holding his level," Spadea said. "Some of the other guys are trying to pick it up, including me. I've been struggling for 10 years to do that, though I've had some good things happening and I'm trying to build on that."

American wild-card entry James Blake came within an eyelash of beating fifth-seeded Carlos Moya of Spain, but collapsed with muscle spasms after losing 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (11).

Moya congratulated him with a handshake as Blake lay face down on the court receiving treatment. The stadium-court crowd gave both a standing ovation.

"I couldn't lose to a nicer guy," Blake said. "I feel like I'm back to where I play at a pretty high level, but I need to string together some wins to prove that."

There's Taylor Dent at No. 33, and Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish at No. 54, but clearly this is not the age of Connors and McEnroe, or Sampras, Courier and Chang.

"We need somebody to step up and win the French, or win Wimbledon twice," Spadea said.

The goal of winning twice in Miami began slipping out of Roddick's grasp at 5-all in the first set, with him serving at 40-love. He jammed the wrist on a forehand, he said. He could still hit hard flat serves, but the painful wrist made it hard to spin in second serves, he said.

"He hit a return really deep," Roddick said. "I kind of did one of these really quick" — he indicated a snap of his wrist — "and just caught something the wrong way, just jammed it a little bit."

ATP trainer Per Bastholt examined Roddick's wrist after the second game of the second set. During a change-over two games later, he taped it.

"Let's try taping it, and see if that kind of maybe just gives it some support," Roddick said Bastholt advised. "If that helps, then go for it. If it doesn't help, then, you know, there's an element of risk."

Roddick called it a "slight sprain" and said he is optimistic he will be able to play again in a matter of weeks, perhaps at the U.S. Men's Clay Court championships in Houston starting Apri 18.

"I'm glad that right now they don't think there's anything permanently damaged. That's good," said Roddick, who said he did not want to risk serious injury. "But it's going to take some rest."

In Friday's late match, No. 3 seed Marat Safin of Russia fought off Irakli Labadze of Georgia, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5).
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