One Year ago on the ATP [Archive] -

One Year ago on the ATP

09-19-2002, 11:40 AM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

September 17: Shangahi - First Round:
Byron Black def. (7) Lars Burgsmuller 7-6(8-6) 6-3
At the time, we said, "The ATP is full of players like Lars Burgsmuller: Specialists of one sort or another, who spend years hovering somewhere outside the top 100, but in one year or another manage to put everything together, and get some nice draws, and briefly take a big surge in the rankings. For Burgsmuller, 25, German, and a clay expert, this is his big year, and it's gotten him to #73 in the Entry Rankings. But it doesn't mean much; this isn't clay, and chances are he'll be back where he came from next year." That was a good call; Burgsmuller did fall in the middle of 2002, though he's regained most of the ground since. And he's still playing; Black is through.

September 18: Shanghai - First Round
Irakli Labadze def. (1) Andre Agassi 7-6(7-4) 7-5
We've now mathematically demonstrated that Andre Agassi is at his most vulnerable, or unconcerned, in first round matches (see "First Round's the Charm," August 7, 2002); this really wasn't much of a surprise. But it did get Irakli "Freak Show" Labadze some publicity. It also gave him reason to call home. When he told his brother that he'd beaten Agassi, his childhood idol, his brother didn't believe him.

September 19: Shanghai - Second Round
Francisco Clavet (4) def. Hyung-Taik Lee 6-4 6-2
With Andre Agassi out of Shanghai, we wondered who might be left to win it. We thought Clavet -- the winner at Scottsdale -- might have had a shot, because he'd been cruising to this point. Obviously it didn't turn out that way; Scottsdale was really his last hurrah. It's been Lee who has been climbing since.

September 20: Shanghai - Second Round
Rainer Schuettler (2) def. Ivo Heuberger 6-3 6-4
At the time, we talked mostly about the ranking system and how its diseased rules caused Rainer Schuettler, then #59 in the world, to be the top ranked player to take "regular" entry into Shanghai. (Andre Agassi, the #1 seed, was wildcarded -- and, we expect, paid a hefty appearance fee for that loss of his.) But Schuettler at least would prove he was worthy of that wildcard, as the sequel was to show: He won the tournament, and since then has moved up into the Top 25. Now the question becomes, can he stay there as he is forced to replace optional events, like this one, with required?

September 23: Davis Cup - Australia vs. Sweden Semifinal
Lleyton Hewitt def. Thomas Johansson 7-6(7-3) 5-7 6-2 6-1
At the time, we said, "One of these days, someone is going to beat Lleyton Hewitt at Davis Cup. (Or beat him somewhere, anyway.) But it hasn't happened yet." Of course, it did happen in the Davis Cup final, and the someone was Nicolas Escude. But that isn't the really shocking part, in hindsight: The amazing thing is, it was Johansson, and not Hewitt, who won the 2002 Australian Open!

Five Years Ago: Davis Cup week/no ATP events played

Ten Years Ago: No ATP events played.

09-19-2002, 11:51 AM
Thanx for that :)

Though i have no idea what its for :o

09-19-2002, 11:53 AM
just memory/reminder :p

Mrs. B
09-19-2002, 11:56 AM

09-19-2002, 12:06 PM
bob larson????

09-19-2002, 12:45 PM
who else ;)

09-19-2002, 12:46 PM
errr... interesting :D

09-26-2002, 02:09 PM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

September 24: Palermo - First Round:
Felix Mantilla def. Albert Montanes 3-6 7-6(7-2) 6-2
At the time, we wondered what had happened to Felix Mantilla. Little did we know that he would go on to win the event, and to work his way back into the Top Fifty. Or that Albert Montanes would go into something of a skid....

September 25: Palermo - First Round
David Nalbandian def. (2) Carlos Moya 6-2 4-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "David Nalbandian seems to have reached that magic stage where he moves from 'promising youngster' to 'significant threat.'" We'd say we hit that nail pretty squarely on the head. Though his ranking will be taking a bit of a hit after his finalist points come off....

September 26: Palermo - Second Round
Jiri Vanek def. Andreas Vinciguerra (6) 7-6(7-2) 6-2
At the time, we talked about how out-of-place Andreas Vinciguerra was at Palermo -- the only seed in the draw who wasn't a Spanish speaker. In hindsight, we should have talked about how both these guys would go away in 2002. Because they have.

September 27: Palermo - Second Round
Mariano Zabaleta def. Alex Corretja (1) 6-4 7-5
At the time, we said, "Last year, Alex Corretja and Carlos Moya played each other in the final at Toulouse.... Then... Toulouse was cancelled due to an industrial accident. At Palermo, Corretja and Moya seemed to run into a little industrial accident of their own. Or maybe an Argentine Accident. Moya lost in the first round to David Nalbandian of Argentina. Corretja managed to last one round, but then had his own Young Argentine Experience." Zabaleta hasn't risen as fast as Nalbandian, but he has continued to show real threat potential.

September 30: Hong Kong - Final
Marcelo Rios (8) def. Rainer Schuettler 7-6(7-3) 6-2
At the time, we said, "Rios said at Hong Kong that he doesn't play tennis to be ranked in the fifties.... Rainer Schuettler didn't put up a great fight; he's been nursing injuries after his long run. But it's been just that: A long run. He came into the final on a nine-match winning streak, one of the best stretches of his career." It turned out to be a good omen for both players, who have been in the Top Thirty this year. Now, with all those points to defend, can they stay there?

Five Years Ago: Nicolas Kiefer won his first career title at Toulouse. He wouldn't win another until 1999, but then won five in two years. Could it be that he's just in another drought?

Ten Years Ago: Sergi Bruguera won his third title of the year at Palermo. It was sort of the Last Warning before he really came into his own: In 1993, he won Monte Carlo and Roland Garros and ended the year at #4.

09-26-2002, 02:16 PM
thanx TC ;)

09-26-2002, 07:23 PM
Thanx for that :)

10-03-2002, 10:51 AM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

October 1: Moscow - First Round:
Dominik Hrbaty def. Vladimir Voltchkov (WC) 6-4 7-5
At the time, we said, "Vladimir Voltchkov has a problem: He can only win on fast surfaces. Really fast surfaces." And, in 2001, he didn't win even there, and that for a time was threatening to drop him out of the Top 200. But in 2002, he seems to be broadening his reach. Can he still take advantage on faster surfaces? We'll see. Meanwhile, Moscow was a big help to Hrbaty -- which in turn means a lot to defend now.

October 2: Moscow - First Round
Nicolas Kiefer def. Roger Federer (3) 6-3 1-6 7-6(7-4)
At the time, we talked about how Roger Federer's summer injury was eating into his indoor results, and how Nicolas Kiefer really needed to defend some points. We could almost repeat that: Federer seems at last to be on track, but he had a lousy summer -- and Kiefer has a desperate need to defend the points he picked up here.

October 3: Moscow - First Round
(2) Marat Safin def. Max Mirnyi 5-7 6-4 6-4
At the time, we quipped, "Max Mirnyi needs to find a way to get zeroth rounds attached to tournaments. Given his results, he'd be unbeatable." The irony is, this is right about the time he really started to turn that result around. A few weeks later, he reached his first Masters Series final. Now, he needs to start building up points for when that comes off.

October 4: Moscow - Second Round
Dominik Hrbaty def. Marat Safin (2) 6-0 4-6 7-6(7-5)
At the time, we talked about Marat Safin and his inconsistency. Gee, what else is new? This was a bad blow for Safin, all but ending his chances of making the Masters Cup. This year, of course, he's in much better shape, points-wise. As for his head -- that's another issue.

Note: Because of the Columbus Day holiday, we did not have additional Matches of the Day from Moscow. But Yevgeny Kafelnikov won his fifth straight title at Moscow -- a result he really needs to defend to keep his ranking up. And, of course, he'd like to extend one of the longest streaks in ATP history.

Five Years Ago: Jim Courier won the next-to-last title of his career, beating Magnus Gustafsson to take home the Beijing title.

Ten Years Ago: It was a week of two Names and one No-Name: Boris Becker won the indoor event at Basel, Sergi Bruguera won the clay event at Palermo -- and Guillaume Raoux won the only title of his career .at Brisbane.

Doris Loeffel
10-03-2002, 11:45 AM
That's really fun to read!!
Keep it up guys.

10-05-2002, 01:30 PM
yeah someone do it for this week!! hehe

10-18-2002, 12:28 PM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

October 15: Stuttgart - First Round:
Julien Boutter (Q) def. Greg Rusedski 6-3 6-4
Julien Boutter got a late start on his career; he not only went to college, but he earned a real degree in a real subject -- engineering, not something sports-related. This win was the culmination of many years of work after that; we said at the time that he was "having probably his best season." Since then, he seems to have stalled; perhaps age is catching up with him. This was a nice win. But it didn't lead to much.

October 16: Stuttgart - Second Round
Max Mirnyi def. Gustavo Kuerten (1) 4-6 7-6(8-6) 6-4
What can anyone say about this? There is more about Mirnyi to come. (At the time, we talked mostly about Mirnyi and his three, count them, three, wins over #1 players in 2001.) And Kuerten, of course, was injured. The amazing thing is that he made it as close as he did on a surface he dislikes.

October 17: Stuttgart - Second Round
Guillermo Canas def. Thomas Johansson (16) 3-6 6-3 7-5
This was an incredibly wild day. Six seeds were upset. Two players were knocked out of Masters Cup competition. We said at the time, "It's hard to pick matches on such an amazing day." We picked this one because Johansson came in at #17, and Canas at #18 -- and the result caused them to swap rankings. But both have suffered similar fates since: Both won the biggest titles of their careers, and have since fallen flat on their faces.
Interestingly, a year later, the third day of Madrid proved just as wild as the third day at Stuttgart, with the majority of seeds in action losing.

October 18: Stuttgart - Third Round
Wayne Ferreira def. Sebastien Grosjean (8) 6-3 3-6 7-6(9-7)
At the time, we said, "Well, at least Pete Sampras and Sebastien Grosjean aren't tied any more. The race for the final spot at Sydney is a long way from over, but we aren't likely to see a photo finish." We went on to argue that Grosjean was just about out of the race for the last Masters Cup spot. Of course, he proved us wrong in the most effective possible way: He won Paris.

October 21: Stuttgart - Final
Tommy Haas (15) def. Max Mirnyi (Q) 6-2 6-2 6-2
At the time, we said, "Could this be the first sign of the apocalypse? Pete Sampras will not be playing at Sydney.... Tommy Haas took care of that with a routine demolition of Max Mirnyi, 6-2 6-2 6-2, in the Stuttgart final.... For Haas, it's his fifth career title -- but fully his fourth of 2001. It's his first Masters Series win." We went on to say that Haas looked good for Sydney -- though Sebastien Grosjean took care of that. But Haas did reach #2 this year, largely on the strength of this win. We went on, "Max Mirnyi didn't win his first-ever singles title, but he did make his first-ever singles final. And at a Masters Series, at that. Last week, we didn't think he could top last year's year-end #40 ranking. Well, we were wrong. Because Mirnyi just earned his way into the Top Thirty into the Race. It appears he will be co-#28, and should certainly end the year no worse than #35.... And, in addition to being able to say that he has beaten two ranking #1 players this year (Marat Safin and Gustavo Kuerten), he can now say he's beaten three former #1 players (Kuerten, Sampras, Kafelnikov) and four Slam winners (Kuerten, Sampras, Kafelnikov, Ivanisevic) in one tournament."

Five Years Ago: It was a week of firsts. Fabrice Santoro won his first career title at Lyon; his opponent was Tommy Haas, playing his first career final. At Ostrava, Karol Kucera won his first (and, to date, only) indoor title, beating Magnus Norman, playing his first (and, to date, only) indoor final.

Ten Years Ago: Jeff Tarango has been on the ATP Tour for fifteen years (despite some pretty vigorous attempts to get himself kicked out), but in only one year did he win a singles title or end up ranked above #49. 1992 was the year. Ten years ago, he won his second career title, and second title of 1992, beating Stephane Simian in the final of Tel Aviv.

10-18-2002, 12:56 PM

10-18-2002, 04:52 PM
Cool, Stuttgart was a great & exciting tourny last year :)

10-24-2002, 02:16 PM
October 22: Stuttgart - First Round:
Vladimir Voltchkov def. (8) Nicolas Escude 6-2 7-6(7-4)
At the time, we complained about how none of the matches on this day affected the Race to Sydney. Since nothing that happened this day mattered, we went on about how Vladimir Voltchkov really loves fast surfaces. He seems to have improved the rest of his game in 2002. Will it affect him indoors?

October 23: Stockholm - Second Round
Sebastien Grosjean (2) def. Mark Philippoussis 6-2 5-7 6-2
At the time, we said, "Mathematically, this match meant absolutely nothing for Sebastien Grosjean. He has points in his fifth optional event, so this doesn't affect his Race Ranking -- and in any case, his chances for Sydney will be settled at Paris, not here.... But we'll bet it felt good." It certainly was a good omen: He won Paris, and did make it to the Masters Cup. Though there seems little chance of a repeat this year.

October 24: Basel - First Round
Julien Boutter def. Gustavo Kuerten (1) 7-6(7-3) 6-2
At the time, we said, "At this rate, Lleyton Hewitt could just walk up to the ATP and say, 'I want to be year-end #1. Gimme.' No one else seems interested in the honor." Obviously we had that part right; Hewitt did end 2001 as the #1 player in the world, and has been there since (though we're amazed to find that he could lose the spot at Paris). But, of course, the real explanation was the Kuerten was injured. The bigger news was Boutter -- who was very good indoors last year, but is finding it hard to defend this year.

October 25: Stockholm - Second Round
Marcelo Rios def. Sebastien Grosjean (2) 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "This match didn't really mean all that much to Sebastien Grosjean. It hurts his chances for Sydney a little... but Grosjean wasn't going to earn his way into Sydney here anyway. If he, or anyone else, is to get there, it will be at Paris.... The big winner here was not Rios, either. The big winner was -- Yevgeny Kafelnikov. We still don't know who will be the eighth player at Sydney. spot has now been secured by Kafelnikov. There is no combination of results which could set him aside." Yet another result Kafelnikov won't be able to defend in this tough, tough year.

October 28: Basel - Final
[b]Tim Henman (2) def. Roger Federer (4) 6-3 6-4 6-2
At the time, we said, "Tim Henman missed the ATP Championships in 2000. It won't happen again if he can help it.... Henman hasn't clinched a spot yet, but he's put himself on the inside track. If Sydney actually used the Race rankings, instead of having the Grand Slam Wildcard, he'd be pretty well guaranteed.... For Roger Federer, this would have been a chance to win before the hometown crowd, and also would have helped his chances for being at least an alternate for Sydney. No such luck, obviously. He doesn't even change his Race standing; #12 he was and #12 he remains. But he's guaranteed to end the year in the Top Twenty, and just about sure to end in the Top Fifteen. Quite a leap from #29 at the end of last year. And it looks like he's finally found his form again.... If he can stay healthy, he looks ready to break into the Top Ten next year." As it turned out, Henman was hijacked by Sebastien Grosjean, but Federer has made the Top Ten. And, ironically, we're in the same situation this year as last: Both Henman and Federer on the bubble for Shanghai. Though, this time, it's Federer who has the inside track.

Five Years Ago: Petr Korda had a strange career: He built up slowly, climaxed wildly -- and vanished. This week five years ago was the start of the climax, when he won his only title of the year at the Stuttgart Masters. The next winter, he would win Doha and the Australian Open -- and then nothing.

Ten Years Ago: Just for symmetry, Korda won in this week in 1992 also, taking home the Vienna title by beating Gianluca Pozzi in the second and last final of the latter's career. It was Korda's third title of 1992 -- the most productive year of his career.

10-24-2002, 08:44 PM
Thanx :)
I like this thread

King Aaron
10-25-2002, 05:56 AM

Doris Loeffel
10-25-2002, 10:19 AM
Me too I like this thread. Thanks for digging out all the results and for the great commentary about the matches.

10-31-2002, 09:02 AM
October 29: Paris - First Round:
Albert Portas def. Franco Squillari 6-2 6-3
At the time, we said, "This is the sort of match that shows why the ATP needs bonus points. Better yet, surface-adjusted bonus points. Beating Franco Squillari on an indoor surface bears about the same weight as beating, say, Pete Sampras on clay.... By and large, when you put clay players indoors, they suffer. But put two of them against each other, and someone has to win." The implication -- that Portas and Squillari weren't going anywhere -- has proved quite true.

October 30: Paris - Second Round
Nicolas Lapentti def. Lleyton Hewitt (2) 4-6 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "So maybe Lleyton Hewitt doesn't want to be #1, either." Obviously wrong, as Hewitt proved in Sydney. But, perhaps, a token that he could be beaten indoors. And this year, he won't be playing the Masters Cup in Australia. And he's looking much weaker this year than last....

October 31: Paris - Second Round
Julien Boutter def. Tim Henman (8) 6-4 6-3
At the time, we said, "One day, you're in line to be at Sydney. The next day, you're lucky to be the alternate." This loss, as it proved, cost Henman his chance to play in Sydney. Not much has changed since: He's playing at Paris for the chance to make the Masters Cup, and it's going to be a near thing. The player who really has a lot to worry about is Boutter, who just hasn't been as impressive this indoor season as last.

November 1: Paris - Third Round
Andreas Vinciguerra def. Marat Safin (5) 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "Color Pete Sampras relieved. He won't be going to Sydney. He won't win a title this year. But he will finish in the Top Ten for the twelfth straight year." That, in hindsight, displays some irony: This year, Sampras did win a title -- a minor item of his fourteenth career Slam. But he won't end up in the Top Ten. And Marat Safin, who probably won't win a title this year, will be.

November 4: Paris - Final
Sebastien Grosjean (6) def. Yevgeny Kafelnikov (4) 7-6(7-3) 6-1 6-7(5-7) 6-4
At the time, we said, "They don't make them much bigger than this. For Yevgeny Kafelnikov, a victory here would finally bring him a Masters Series title, after some sixty failures. It would also all but guarantee him a spot in the top six at the end of the year. But for Sebastien Grosjean, it meant the chance to play his first ever Masters Cup, and to have his shot at a top six spot.... It's only the second title of Grosjean's career, and his first Masters Series win. He's guaranteed to end the year ranked no worse than #7, far surpassing his #19 rank at the end of last year. He's clearly over the injury that slowed him this summer. It's a great way to not end 2001." But, of course, he couldn't follow it up in 2002. He is guaranteed to fall sharply in these last weeks of the season. Now the question becomes, how well can he spring back in 2003? At least he shouldn't be quite as tired at year-end.

Five Years Ago: It seems odd to say that Pete Sampras has won "only" five of the nine Masters Series. But it's true. Clay has largely eluded him, and he hasn't played the Canadian Open all that often, and Stuttgart -- well, it just never happened. Interestingly, of his eleven total Masters, eight have been on hardcourts. The three exceptions: Rome 1994, Paris 1995, and Paris 1997. Thus, just five years ago, Sampras won his last non-hardcourt Masters.

Ten Years Ago: Goran Ivanisevic won Stockholm, beating Guy Forget in the final. It was the first Masters Series title of his career (or, rather, the first of what would later be the Masters Series); he won his second at Paris 1993 -- and then, no more big ones until a certain grass event in 2001. A strange career. But that's probably only proper, given that this is Ivanisevic.

10-31-2002, 11:28 AM
Thanks TBE :) I like this tread a lot

Any news about Goran?

10-31-2002, 05:42 PM
Goran is going to start practicing again with next year's Davis Cup home tie against USA in mind. :D

Also he and his gf are expecting. :cool:

Nice thread for the memories by the way. :)

11-15-2002, 04:50 PM
November 12: Masters Cup - Round Robin
(3) Andre Agassi def. Patrick Rafter 6-2 6-4
The first day of the Masters Cup is pretty tough to talk about; nobody is eliminated. Sometimes, someone clinches a ranking spot. Not this time. All we could wonder about is how badly Patrick Rafter's injury hurt him. On the face of it, pretty badly.

November 13: Masters Cup - Round Robin
Goran Ivanisevic def. (1) Gustavo Kuerten 6-2 6-7(2-7) 6-4
At the time, we said, "It wasn't exactly the classic return to the court Gustavo Kuerten hoped for as he flew to Australia." Of course, we now know why: Injury. But Ivanisevic was hurting too. This turned out to be nearly his last hurrah. Kuerten is back, and presumably will be back in the Top Ten next year. Ivanisevic? It's still up in the air....

November 14: Masters Cup - Round Robin
(2) Lleyton Hewitt def. (3) Andre Agassi 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "We have our first Sydney semifinalist. Is anyone surprised that it's an Australian?" Of course, Hewitt went on to more than the semifinal. But this loss had more weight than that: It meant that Andre Agassi had to beat Sebastien Grosjean to make the semifinal. More on that below....

November 15: Masters Cup - Round Robin
(7) Sebastien Grosjean def. (3) Andre Agassi 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "Sebastien Grosjean is a come-from-behind kind of guy. Entering Paris, it looked like his chances of reaching Sydney were almost dead. But he won the tournament to make his way to Australia.... After he lost to Lleyton Hewitt at the start of the Masters Cup round robin, it looked like Grosjean's chances for the semifinal were almost dead. But he won his next two matches and will be in the semifinal." Those results -- Paris and the Masters Cup -- kept him in the Top Ten all year. Sadly, he couldn't play up to that level in 2002, and now finds himself outside the year-end Top 15.

November 18: Masters Cup - Final
(2) Lleyton Hewitt def. (7) Sebastien Grosjean 6-3 6-3 6-2
At the time, we said, "It was tougher than it looked. Although the match took only 26 games (there are matches settled in two sets which have as many games), it lasted an hour and 55 minutes. As always, Sebastien Grosjean got a lot of balls back, and the breaks went both ways.... Unfortunately for the Frenchman, Lleyton Hewitt got a lot of balls back, too. And when the points really counted, it was Hewitt who won.... Hewitt didn't "need" this match; he had clinched the year-end #1 on Friday. But winning gives him more respectability, and more security, in the role." After a weak second half of 2002, he may not be so respectable. But he's certainly been secure: Hewitt has been #1 for the entire year since. And his chances still look good to make it two straight year-end #1 rankings.

Five Years Ago: Pete Sampras beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the final of what was then Hannover. We hate to say "Ho hum," but -- ho hum, it was Sampras's second straight win, and third in four years. And, of course, it was his fifth straight year as the year-end #1.

Ten Years Ago: Hey, guess what: Sampras didn't win Frankfurt, and didn't end the year at #1. (He was #3.) The final saw Boris Becker beat Jim Courier in the final. But Becker, despite the win, would end 1992 a mere #5 in the rankings, while Courier was #1.

01-02-2003, 03:09 AM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

December 30: No Men's Matches Played

January 1: Chennai - First Round:
Dennis Van Scheppingen def. Michal Tabara (7) 4-6 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "The ATP believes the Race makes tennis more interesting for the casual fan, because players get to fight for the year-end #1. If that takes away the drama of having ranking contests every day, so be it.... But it does rather eat into the meaning of most contests; most weeks... it's literally impossible for the top rankings to change hands. Two days ago, Michal Tabara was tied with every other man on the ATP for 0th place in the Race. Today, he's tied with 48 other guys for 49th place.... But even though Tabara 'shouldn't' care about this loss, we rather suspect that he does care. Because this is going to hit him good and hard in the Entry Rankings.... Tabara won Chennai last year for his first and (to date) only career title." Failure to defend those points proved a major omen: Tabara ended 2002 outside the Top 200.

January 2: Doha, Qatar - Second Round
Radek Stepanek def. Goran Ivanisevic (2) 7-6(7-4) 6-2
This proved a sort of a double omen. It didn't hurt Ivanisevic, who had nothing to defend, and it wasn't worth that many points to Stepanek -- but it was a token of the tough times ending in surgery that Ivanisevic would face in 2002. And it also showed the first hints of the steady progress Stepanek would make in 2002.

January 3: Doha, Qatar - Quarterfinal
Rainer Schuettler (7) def. Yevgeny Kafelnikov (1) 7-5 6-4
At the time, we said, "Does Yevgeny Kafelnikov have a block about the quarterfinal at Doha? It's the second straight year he's lost in this round. Last year, it was to Bohdan Ulihrach, this year to Rainer Schuettler.... Of course, losing to Schuettler on a hardcourt is no longer any shame." At least, so it appeared at the time. Schuettler, last spring, clawed his way into the Top 25. Things haven't gone so well since. And now he has a lot of points to defend in the next few months....

January 6: Chennai, India - Final
Guillermo Canas (1) def. Paradorn Srichaphan 6-4 7-6(7-2)
This final proved a bigger omen than we thought. At the time, we commented that "Guillermo Canas can do everything except move up the rankings." Well, he found a way around that with his first Masters Series title last year -- though the injury that he was carrying at the time cost him dearly in the fall. As for Srichaphan, this was the first alert to the world of what would happen on hardcourts in the summer.

Five Years Ago: The first week of 1998 featured two big events. At the time, you might have said that Petr Korda's title at Doha was more important, since it pointed to his Australian Open title three weeks later. But even more significant, in the long run, was a result posted by a sixteen-year-old Australian ranked #550. Lleyton Hewitt became the lowest-ranked player ever to win an ATP title; he was still six weeks shy of his seventeenth birthday. And look what he's done since!

Ten Years Ago: One great week did not forecast a great year. Boris Becker won both the singles and doubles titles at Doha (beating Goran Ivanisevic in the singles final) -- but he went on to win only one more small event that year (Milan). When 1993 ended, it seemed like he was fading. He answered that with four titles in 1994, a year-end championship in 1995 and five titles including the Australian Open in 1996.

01-09-2003, 10:22 AM
January 7: Sydney - First Round:
Wayne Ferreira (Q) def. (5) Arnaud Clement 6-2 6-4
At the time, we said, "This is your last warning.... Arnaud Clement, your condition is more than serious. It's been serious for half a year. But it's about to turn deadly.... Or, to put it another way, what has happened to Arnaud Clement? The guy made the Australian Open final, and then dropped off the face of the earth." Since then, it's almost as if the lowered expectations have helped the Frenchman. He's never returned to the heights he reached in 2001, but at least he's winning occasional matches again. Though, in hindsight, this was bigger for Ferreira, who was terrible in 2001 but again because respectable in 2002.

January 8: Sydney - First Round:
Paradorn Srichaphan (SE) def. Sebastien Grosjean (1) 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "Quick! Run a test on Paradorn Srichaphan's breakfast cereal. If there is a true Breakfast of Champions, he's obviously eating it.... Srichaphan seems to be looking for a new record for most seeds beaten in a single week. He's knocked off four in seven days: Thomas Johansson, Andre Pavel, and Max Mirnyi at Chennai, and now the biggest scalp of all: Sebastien Grosjean." In a way, that proved premature. Srichaphan went into a bit of a slump after this. But, of course, he went on to a great second half of 2002. And this was the first real token of what was to come.

January 9: Sydney - Second Round:
Max Mirnyi def. Paradorn Srichaphan 6-2 6-3
As we said, Srichaphan's big results in the first weeks of the year were a bit premature. But only a little bit....

January 10: Auckland - Quarterfinal
(6) Greg Rusedski def. (2) Goran Ivanisevic 6-2 0-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "If the tennis season were compressed to January and February, Greg Rusedski might be #1 in the world." It's easy to show that, in recent years, he has been at his most effective during that time. Of course, now that he isn't playing in January, it means that his ranking will be falling quickly and dramatically.

January 14: Sydney - Final
(2) Roger Federer def. Juan Ignacio Chela (Q) 6-3 6-3
At the time, we said, "Last year, Roger Federer and Martina Hingis teamed to win the Hopman Cup for Switzerland. But Hingis seems only to play Hopman Cup in odd-numbered years, which left Federer high and dry last week.... Even so, Hingis and Federer managed to win an event together before the Australian Open. They didn't play mixed doubles, but they still took home the singles titles at Sydney for Switzerland." Since then, of course, it's been all downhill for Hingis -- but Federer went on to the best year of his young career. Now the question becomes, can he repeat?

Five Years Ago: 1998 was the year Marcelo Rios reached #1 in the ATP rankings (back when they actually had rankings), and Auckland was the event that started it all. He beat Richard Fromberg in the final -- and went on to reach the Australian Open final before losing to Petr Korda. In his impressive year, Rios would win on five different surfaces: Rebound Ace (Auckland), "regular" hardcourts (Indian Wells, Miami), clay (Rome, St. Poelten), carpet (Singapore), and indoor hardcourts (Grand Slam Cup). Of course, he did lose first round at Wimbledon (and proceeded to swear off grass)

Ten Years Ago: 1993 was the year when Pete Sampras first made it to #1 (on April 12), and Sydney was where it all began: He beat Thomas Muster in the final for what would prove to be the first of eight titles that year. Interestingly, he didn't win another until Miami. But after that -- well, you do the math.

J. Corwin
01-09-2003, 08:12 PM
Yup, this thread is cool.

01-23-2003, 10:45 PM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

January 14: Australian Open - First Round:
Julien Boutter def. Gustavo Kuerten (2) 3-6 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-3
At the time, we said, "It's only Day One, and already the race for #1 is over. Lleyton Hewitt is in, probably until at least Wimbledon." That forecast, obviously, proved true. The rest of the column was devoted to Kuerten and Rebound Ace. That was before we knew that Kuerten would need surgery. So far this year, he's recuperating pretty well, but his Melbourne jinx remains.

January 15: Australian Open - First Round:
Alberto Martin def. Lleyton Hewitt (1) 1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6(7-4)
At the time, we said, "If there are any other vaccinations Lleyton Hewitt has missed, we suspect he will hurry to get them taken care of. On Tuesday, Hewitt paid the price for not keeping his immunities up to date." Hewitt had suffered a case of chicken pox at Hopman Cup, and wasn't over it. With Andre Agassi already out, it obviously resulted in a wide-open field. But in the long run, no one took advantage -- Hewitt stayed #1 all year.

January 16: Australian Open - Second Round:
Alex Kim def. Yevgeny Kafelnikov (4) 6-3 7-5 6-3
At the time, we said, "Maybe the ATP should shut down the Top Ten. Nobody wants to be part of it. The top five seeds are all out of the Australian Open." What we didn't know at the time was that this would prove to be an omen for Kafelnikov, who had his worst year in almost a decade. We don't know what happened. Kafelnikov probably doesn't either. But this was a very effective forecast of what lay ahead.

January 17: Australian Open - Second Round
Gaston Gaudio def. Arnaud Clement (15) 6-4 4-6 6-2 7-6(7-3)
At the time, we said, "The condemned went quietly.... How much do we tell of Arnaud Clement's last day as a Top Thirty player? It was at this event a year ago that he really hit the big time. Having made his first Slam quarterfinal at the 2000 U. S. Open, he hit the Top Twenty that fall for the first time. Then he made the 2001 Australian Open final. He seemed like he was on top of the world.... That's when the bottom fell out." Since then, he's slowly gotten things together again -- but it's never been the same.

January 21: Australian Open - Fourth Round
Tommy Haas (7) def. Roger Federer (11) 7-6(7-3) 4-6 3-6 6-4 8-6
At the time, we said, "The talk was all about Pete Sampras versus Marat Safin, but that was 'past versus future.' This was the present versus the future -- and the present just barely survived." Had the match happened later in the year, indeed, Haas might not have survived; as of now, Federer is ranked higher -- and he made the trip to Melbourne. Haas couldn't.

January 22: Australian Open - Quarterfinal
Jiri Novak (26) def. Stefan Koubek 6-2 6-3 6-2
At the time, we said, "Who says the Good Old Days are over? If what you yearn for is the unexpected, you probably have never seen an Australian Open like this one.... Certainly Jiri Novak hasn't." But this set the tone for a 2002 in which Novak made the Top Ten for the first time. The funny part is, he did it without a single title -- which means that he has lots of room to rise or fall in 2003. He took a fall at Melbourne, of course, but the year is young.

January 23: Australian Open - Quarterfinal
Tommy Haas (7) def. Marcelo Rios 7-6(7-2) 6-4 6-7(2-7) 7-6(7-5)
At the time, we said, "[Tommy] Haas continues to look like The Next Big Thing." Well, he did. That was before shoulder trouble ruined his year; he didn't win a single title, and he isn't in Australia. Of course, neither is Rios. It seems likely that Haas will be back in form sooner, though.

January 24: Australian Open - DOUBLES Semifinal
Mark Knowles/Daniel Nestor (9) def. Donald Johnson/Jared Palmer (2) 6-1 6-4
We didn't know it at the time, but this was a passing of the torch: The best team of 2001 gave way to the best team of 2002. Makes you wonder what will happen in the semifinal this year....

January 27: Australian Open - Final
Thomas Johansson (16) def. Marat Safin (9) 3-6 6-4 6-4 7-6(7-4)
The women's final defied explanation. But at least there was symmetry: So did the men's final. Ironically, the big moment of Thomas Johansson's life also led to his severe decline; he hasn't won an event since, and now seems to be constantly injured. He couldn't even come to defend his title.

Five Years Ago: What can you say other than "Petr Korda"? It was a strange case indeed: It took him seven years after his first title to win his first Slam, and it proved to be his last title. In fact, it was his last final. Since then, it's been controversy and fines and -- well, let's not talk about it.

Ten Years Ago: Jim Courier had already defended his Roland Garros title, and now he defended his Australian Open title to give him four Slams in less than two years. He had five titles on his record, including Rome, and was #1 in the world. Hard to believe that he would never win another Slam....

01-23-2003, 11:15 PM
thanks Egg! lovely reference thread...;) ;)

01-25-2003, 09:01 PM
Thanks TBE for another interesting read :)

I had difficulties finding it though :D

01-30-2003, 05:33 PM
January 28: Milan - First Round:
(5) Younes El Aynaoui def. Kristian Pless 4-6 6-3 7-6(9-7)
At the time, we said, "El Aynaoui seems intent on having the best year of his career. He already has one title, and he's back in the Top Twenty, and he's near the top of the ATP Race." Except for the part about having already won a title, he's close to repeating the whole thing this year. Well -- except that he lost first round at Milan this time.

January 29: Milan - First Round:
Sjeng Schalken def. Jan-Michael Gambill (4) 7-5 3-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "The name 'Sjeng Schalken' [doesn't] exactly... rouse fear in the hearts of opponents." Well, that changed quite dramatically in 2002 as the guy ended up in the Top Twenty and with his best Slam result ever. This was perhaps the first token of what was to come -- though it was also a token of a long slump for Gambill that he only now seems to be shaking.

January 30: Milan - First Round:
Juan Carlos Ferrero (1) def. Julien Boutter 3-6 7-6(7-5) 6-4
Last year, in discussing this match, we talked mostly about Juan Carlos Ferrero; this was the Spaniard's first match of the year, and he beat a pretty good indoor player. This year, he's clearly off to a better start. But in hindsight, the real news may have been Boutter. In 2000 and 2001, the guy turned into a significant threat, at least on fast surfaces. But in 2002, he couldn't maintain it -- perhaps he's slowing down with age. This was the first sign that 2002 would be the first year in his career that he did not improve his ranking.

January 31: Milan - Second Round
Davide Sanguinetti def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (1) 6-2 6-4
At the time, we said, "Italy has a real problem with its players. Last year, it saw all its top women boycott the Fed Cup team, and the men weren't much more cooperative. Last year, Davide Sanguinetti refused to play Davis Cup for Italy. This year, he's willing to make peace. And he's making a pretty good case that he belongs on the team." Of course, he made it even better in the next three rounds....

February 1: Milan - Final
Davide Sanguinetti def. Roger Federer (2) 7-6(7-2) 4-6 6-1
At the time, we said, "Now that is a home field advantage.... Davide Sanguinetti came to Milan having never won an ATP title. He'd barely cracked the Top Fifty in his career, and that was years ago. He came to Milan with a ranking of #87. Not only was he unseeded, he barely got into the tournament; only two lower-ranked players earned direct entry (and one of them was ranked ahead of Sanguinetti when entries closed).... But he's Italian. That might not have gotten him a wildcard -- not after refusing to play Davis Cup for several years. But it got him crowd support. Or something. Because Sanguinetti not only won, he won in incredible fashion. He beat #1 seed Juan Carlos Ferrero. He beat #2 seed Roger Federer. He beat #5 Younes El Aynaoui. He beat Nicolas Escude, unseeded but always a threat on fast surfaces. It doesn't get much tougher than that." For some reason, it turned out to be a spring of incredible success for Sanguinetti; he won two titles and made a final. Then -- he turned back into a frog. And now he has to defend those points....

Five Years Ago: Goran Ivanisevic won the indoor title at Split, beating Greg Rusedski. Considering that he had won three titles the year before, it didn't seem as if his career was at a crossroads. But he was not to win another title until -- Wimbledon 2001.

Ten Years Ago: If you look at Marc Rosset's results now, it's hard to realize that this guy was once one of the game's elite. But from 1993 to 1995, he was a Top 20 player, reaching as high as #9 in the last of those years. It was this week that he started that push, winning the first of three titles in 1993 at Marseilles.

01-30-2003, 06:40 PM
You're darned right it spelt the rise and renewal of the Sjengster, to achieve his full potential in 2002!

Long may he grind such style-but-no-substance players as Mr Hollywood into the dust in his quest to reach the dizzy heights of men's tennis.

01-30-2003, 07:46 PM
kendoll doesn't even have any style;)

01-30-2003, 07:51 PM
Worryingly intense, isn't he? He has those hollow, sunken Rafter eyes, but also a feral desire and hunger that can be quite unsettling at times. I don't think it helps him.

His match against Hewitt at Indian Wells last year was a classic case of the world no. 1 showing the world no. 43 what intensity should be used for on court; when Hewitt had 0-30 on Gambill's serve, he dipped a low return at Gambill's feet, saw him net the volley and actually raced across to the side of the court right in front of him, pumping his fist in a huge circle! I nearly died laughing at Gambill's expression.

01-30-2003, 07:53 PM

LMAO your so funny sjengster!:D

01-30-2003, 08:04 PM
When Hewitt won the match with a passing shot, he gave a blissfully happy, almost delirious "Come on...!" as if to say "Boy, this bloke is easy to beat!"

Not so, as the record before 2002 stood at 3-1 to Gambill and then in the space of a month became 4-3 to Hewitt.

Riley Finn
01-30-2003, 08:07 PM
nice talking to you Sjengster...

if you want to talk some more you can catch us at starting tomorrow

01-30-2003, 08:11 PM
I sure will do that thing...

Riley Finn
01-30-2003, 08:14 PM
see you there in that case and have a good night :)

01-30-2003, 09:52 PM
"Ten Years Ago: If you look at Marc Rosset's results now ..." *sigh*

02-24-2003, 02:26 AM
Once a week, Daily Tennis will look back at our Matches of the Day of a year ago, and at events of five and ten years ago, comparing what we thought the results meant with how things actually turned out...

One Year Ago on the ATP:

February 19: Buenos Aires - First Round:
David Sanchez def. Guillermo Canas (2) 6-2 6-3At the time, we wondered if Guillermo Canas was trying to hard to move his game away from clay. The evidence since has argued otherwise -- he did have that Roland Garros quarterfinal, after all. His real problem seems to be that his body falls apart a lot. But Sanchez contributed, too. He was a slow developer -- but, of course, he won his first title last week. There are worse guys to lose to.

February 20: Rotterdam - First Round:
Nicolas Escude def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (1) 5-7 6-1 6-0
At the time, we talked about how big a match this was, and how important for defending champion Escude. That was back when Escude was still Top 30. This year, due to inconsistency and injury, he's ranked even lower. It's going to be a tough week for him if he can't repeat his success....

February 21: Rotterdam - Second Round:
Ivan Ljubicic def. Yevgeny Kafelnikov (2) 7-6(7-4) 4-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "How bad are things for Yevgeny Kafelnikov this year? Let's put it this way: He has yet to make a final so far this year." In hindsight, that was more token than anything else: 2002 was to prove a very bad year for the Russian. And he hasn't shown any signs of breaking out of it in 2003....

February 24: Rotterdam - Final
Nicolas Escude def. Tim Henman (6) 3-6 7-6(9-7) 6-4
At the time, we said, "Admit it: You didn't think the first player to defend a title this year would be Nicolas Escude. After all, the guy is almost 26 and came in with only two career titles.... But that's deceptive. Escude has proved his stuff.... Give him a chance and a fast surface, and he'll give you all you ever bargained for." But chances have been few -- for both him and Henman -- in the past year. He was injured for a long time, and needed more time to recover. Henman made his return from injury at Rotterdam, and lost. And Escude came in with a bad leg. And he desperately needed a three-peat.

Five Years Ago: Those were the good old days, when Britain had lots of tournaments, including an indoor event in London. Yevgeny Kafelnikov has reason to remember the Guardian Direct Cup fondly, having won the singles over Cedric Pioline and reached the doubles final.

Ten Years Ago: Anders Jarryd is remembered (when he's remembered at all) primarily for his stellar doubles career, but he did win eight singles titles from 1982 to 1993. Rotterdam 1993 was the last of his career; he won the singles over Karel Novacek -- and, of course, took home the doubles as well.

03-06-2003, 04:43 PM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

March 4: Delray Beach - First Round:
Mardy Fish (WC) def. Andrei Stoliarov 6-4 2-6 7-6(7-1)
At the time, said, "Someday, we're going to sit down and study how well tournaments do in picking wildcards. Some tournaments are clearly better than others.... If you're going to pick Mardy Fish, this is the time and the place to do it.... [T]here isn't much question that Fish, who is still only [20], has improved in the past year." Well, we still haven't done that study of wildcards, but we can say this definitively: Fish has improved even more in the year since then. Especially in recent months.

March 5: Scottsdale - First Round:
Michel Kratochvil def. Guillermo Canas (4) 6-3 3-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "This is ceasing to be a curiosity, and starting to be scary. At this rate, Guillermo Canas, who won the Comeback Player of the Year award last year, is going to be a candidate again this year." That didn't quite prove true; Canas went on to big things at Roland Garros, and won his first Masters Series that summer. But then the injury bug hit him; a stress fracture cost him most of the late summer and fall. And lately he's been hurt again. Makes you wonder if we'll ever see him play a full season at full strength; he isn't especially young any more.

March 6: Scottsdale - Second Round
Andre Agassi (1) def. Greg Rusedski 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "Andre Agassi is on the horns of an interesting dilemma. In the next three and a half weeks he has the equivalent of a Slam title to defend, in the form of victories at Indian Wells and Miami. He hasn't had time for many warmups, so he has played two weeks straight. Does he try to do well this week, and risk tiring himself out and peaking too soon? Or does he expend minimal effort and risk losing his edge?" As it turned out, Agassi's solution (planned or unplanned) was to lose first round at Indian Wells, which made him ready to win Miami. Which now leaves him in position to take over the #1 ranking next week. It may not have been good strategy at the time -- but it looks good right about now.

March 7: Scottsdale - Second Round
Wayne Ferreira def. Pete Sampras (3) 7-5 7-5
At the time, we said, "For Pete Sampras, Wayne Ferreira's slump in 2001 was pure good news: Sampras didn't have to face the South African. Unfortunately, Ferreira is making a comeback this year." A comeback last year, and a bigger one this year. Of course, Sampras made a comeback last year also -- but has hardly played since. One suspects, if they were to play now, the result would be reversed.

March 10: Delray Beach - Final
Davide Sanguinetti (5) def. Andy Roddick (1) 6-4 4-6 6-4
At the time, we said, "It's been a year for amazing headlines. 'Johansson wins first Slam.' 'ATP institutes Match Tiebreaks in doubles.' But who would have imagined 'Sanguinetti leads ATP in titles?'" It proved not to be a breakthrough, though. Sanguinetti had two titles to this point. He all but vanished for the rest of the year. And now he's failed to defend those points....

Five Years Ago: We're still having trouble lining up calendars. By tour calendar, of course, it's the week of Scottsdale, won five years ago by Andre Agassi. Yes, we reported last week on Agassi winning Scottsdale -- but that was in 1993. Deja vu and all that....

Ten Years Ago: Under the schedule then prevailing, this was the week of Indian Wells. Jim Courier won it -- his third title of the year, on his third different surface (well, sort of -- the first two were the Australian Open, on Rebound Ace, and Memphis, indoors). Though the bottom was about to drop out -- he would win Rome, and then win only one more title in the next year and a half.

03-06-2003, 06:50 PM
TBE, nice to have you back with these updates. Thanks!

01-09-2004, 02:01 PM
this thread is back, got slightly diluted to the breaks on boards but new season.

One Year Ago on the ATP:

December 30, 2003: Doha -- First Round DOUBLES
Escude/Zimonjic def. Kafelnikov/Stepanek 6-4 6-1
At the time, we said, “As a match, it wasn't much. As a portent, it may not be much bigger. But as a historical footnote, it's big.... Yevgeny Kafelnikov not only isn't retired, he didn't even take a vacation.... The real question is, what sort of form is he in? 2002 was his worst season in years; if he had decided to retire just because his results had slipped, it would have seemed reasonable and proper. Obviously it didn't work out that way. But here he partnered with Radek Stepanek, a pretty good doubles player, and went [out] easily. Admittedly Nicolas Escude is a pretty good doubles player when he plays, and Nenad Zimonjic is also solid, having been Top 20 in doubles a while back. But Kafelnikov is the guy with a Slam title in the past year.... Which seems to add up to, ‘We'll just have to wait and see.'” Ironically, a year later, we're in exactly the same situation.

January 1: Doha - Second Round
Andreas Vinciguerra (Q) def. Albert Costa (2) 3-6 7-6(7-5) 7-5
At the time, we said, “If you want to accuse us of picking on the ATP (and WTA) injury rules, well, go ahead. They're still stupid.... This match is a case in point. Andreas Vinciguerra is a solid young player (he ended 2001 ranked #34, though he won't turn 22 for another seven weeks). And he is the sort of Swede who loves slow courts.... But in 2002, he was injured, saw his entry ranking fall well below #100, and got stuck playing qualifying and Challengers when he was able to play at all. Which doesn't change the fact that he's clearly a Top 50 player, at least on slow surfaces.... As Albert Costa learned to his cost.... How bad was Vinciguerra's 2002? Up through Stockholm (where he qualified and made the quarterfinal), he had only one ATP win all year. Of course, he was out from Monte Carlo until after Wimbledon, and recovering after that. But it looks to us like he's now pretty well over the problems....” Well, we have to confess we had that completely wrong. A year later, Vinciguerra really hasn't made any progress. He's still young enough that he might find himself again -- but things look a lot blacker than they did a year ago.

January 2: Doha - Quarterfinal
Jan-Michael Gambill (9) def. Roger Federer (1) 6-4 7-5
At the time, we said, “Roger Federer and Jan-Michael Gambill were originally supposed to meet in the first round. Then Gambill was promoted to the #9 seed. Based on the results, Federer would probably rather have faced Gambill earlier.... Of course, Federer continues to be an up-and-down player, so this isn't really a clear omen [for the Australian Open] one way or the other. The important part is what it does for Jan-Michael Gambill.... Gambill's best year to date was probably 2001, when he was slipping in and out of the Top 20. It seemed like he was finally learning to use his tools (big serve, big groundstrokes) to cover his weaknesses (lack of speed and even more lack of speed). The guy even reached the Wimbledon quarterfinal in 2000 -- and if a guy who is two-handed on both sides can do that, you know he's onto something.... But then it all fell apart in 2002. He finally made a final at Los Angeles, but that was much too late. It's true that hardcourts are his surface, but his results in the spring were so bad (no wins at all until Memphis, and a relatively weak 6-3 at Delray Beach, Indian Wells, and Miami) that it was too late to rescue his year. Especially since he lost first round at Washington, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.... Now, finally, he can claim a solid start to the year. In fact, he just might have a shot at an Australian Open seed at this rate. Gambill came in at #42. This should make him Top 40. If he can win here, the seed becomes certain. Even now, he is borderline, given the rate at which seeds are withdrawing....” Somehow, though, Gambill didn't really turn his year around; he remained the sort of mid-level guy who can get into all the events but hardly ever gets seeded at anything significant. For Federer -- well, the test for him remains keeping his head together. We'll see how he does in 2004.

January 5: Adelaide - Final
Nikolay Davydenko def. (Q) Kristof Vliegen 6-2 7-6(7-3)
At the time, we said, “Sometimes, second thoughts are a good idea.... For the last couple of years, people have talked about the three ‘young Russians': Nikolay Davydenko, Andrei Stoliarov, and Mikhail Youzhny. It's a distorted picture: Stoliarov isn't young and isn't going anywhere. Youzhny definitely started to fulfill his potential last year. That left Davydenko the guy in the middle -- intermediate in age (he's 21, to Youzhny's 20 and Stoliarov's soon-to-be-26) and intermediate in ranking.... Suddenly he can step out of the shadows.... The key to Davydenko's results this week (he beat two seeds to get this far, including big-serving Ivan Ljubicic) was steadiness: Not many errors, a reliable baseline game, and a steady serve. He put 76% of his first serve in in the final. In the whole match, he suffered only one real glitch; he served for the match at 5-4 in the second set and was broken. Then he had his ‘second thoughts,' and relaxed -- and won his first career title.... Davydenko came in ranked #85. This will move him up to about #60, meaning that he won't have to qualify for Miami and may even get seeded at some small ATP events. That's apart from the satisfaction of that first title.... As for Vliegen, he came in ranked #165 and will increase his point total by more than 50%. It won't quite put him in the Top 100 -- it looks like he'll be around #115 -- but if he can play like this in the future, it probably won't take long.” Davydenko continued his climb in the first half of the year, too, picking up another title and peaking just below #30. But he started to slide at the end of the year, and now he's going to have to start defending things. This week could prove to be a major crossroads for him; he lost first round at Doha 2004. As for Vliegen -- there hasn't been much sign of him since, and he's likely to be in a lot of trouble.

Five Years Ago: The commentators say, correctly, that Rainer Schuettler has improved his ranking every year he's played. But that's just about guaranteed in the early years of one's career: Schuettler was #772 at the end of 1994, #445 at the end of 1995, #329 at the end of 1996; that's just natural progression. As late as the end of 1998, he was still #111. 1999 was the year he finally broke through and hit the Top 50. And he made his biggest single move in that direction in the first week of the year: He won his first career title at Doha.

Ten Years Ago: The first week of January 1994 also brought a player his first career title -- and, in this case, a player who proved to be even more important than Schuettler: Yevgeny Kafelnikov was only 19, but he earned his first-ever title at Adelaide. It was quite a breakthrough: He would win two more titles that year, and end the season at #11 -- up from #104 at the end of 1993.

01-09-2004, 04:23 PM
January 21: Australian Open - Fourth Round
Tommy Haas (7) def. Roger Federer (11) 7-6(7-3) 4-6 3-6 6-4 8-6

January 23: Australian Open - Quarterfinal
Tommy Haas (7) def. Marcelo Rios 7-6(7-2) 6-4 6-7(2-7) 7-6(7-5)

No wonder Tommy had to take time off! :lol:

01-09-2004, 04:23 PM
great thread, btw. thanks!

01-15-2004, 06:23 PM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

January 6: Sydney - First Round DOUBLES
Bowen/Sanguinetti def. (1) Johnson/Palmer 7-5 6-3
At the time, we said, "Yes, we know, twice in one day, doubles. And men's doubles, which even we don't really care much about.... But we have a mystery on our hands: What happened to Donald Johnson and Jared Palmer? They won six titles including a Slam in 2001 -- and now they've turned into pumpkins. Oh, it isn't fair to expect them to be able to repeat that 2001 success. But last year, they won two events to start the year -- and then nothing. (Well, Palmer won St. Petersburg with Adams, but nothing together.)... The price has been high, too. The two should have been the 2001 year-end #1s, though the oddities of the ATP ranking system left them at #3 and #4. But they ended 2002 at #9 and #10. They managed to maintain that last week despite failing to defend. Can they do it again? It depends, it appears, on Martin Damm. Even if they do, well, they have 'bad year' written all over them. Bowen, after all, is ranked #64 in doubles, and Sanguinetti is below #200.... Given that the ATP is punishing doubles players for existing this year, it's going to be tough to survive at this rate...." And, of course, they didn't survive; Johnson and Palmer have gone on to other partners -- though it hasn't really done much for either guy.

January 7: Sydney - First Round
Franco Squillari (LL) def. Roger Federer (4) 6-2 6-3
At the time, we said, "Roger Federer seems to operate in one of two modes, and both modes can be summed up by the phrase, 'Be very, very afraid.' In one mode, it is Federer's opponents who should be afraid. In the other, it's Federer himself.... There seems to be no way to tell, in advance, whether Federer will be extremely impressive or disastrously bad. Witness what happened at Hamburg last year -- and at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.... It will be evident that this was one of the bad days..... Federer said he didn't know what to expect [against Squillari] because he plays mostly indoors and Squillari plays mostly clay. On the other hand, Squillari admitted that he had to work hard to hold his game together on hardcourts. On the third hand, it was windy, and Federer seems to like calm conditions. Still, no amount of explaining explains this.... In the short term, this may not affect Federer, even though he was defending champion. His lead over Jiri Novak is big enough that Novak is going to have to do something special to overtake him. But Federer surely wanted more practice going into the Australian Open.... As for Squillari -- well, it's only a first round win, at what is officially declared to be the lowest level of events on the ATP. It won't help him." A year later, Federer has reinforced the impression: He showed at Wimbledon and the Masters Cup what he can do. He showed on summer hardcourts that his head can still be a problem.

January 8: Sydney - Second Round
Mardy Fish (Q) def. Carlos Moya (3) 7-6(7-4) 4-6 6-4
At the time, we said, "In every player's life, there comes that magic moment where everything comes together. (Or it doesn't, and he goes home and gets a real job.) There is no guaranteed age at which it happens, but most players reach that stage around age 21 or 22.... Mardy Fish turned 21 a month ago.... Now let's be honest: If you had asked us if Fish, whose best weapon is his serve, would have had a chance against the resurgent Carlos Moya, we would have asked about the conditions. Upon being told that it would be on a slow surface in windy weather, we'd have said, 'He hasn't a prayer.' Off the record, anyway; making public predictions is mostly a way to get egg on your face.... But maybe Fish really has reached the magic age. Because Carlos Moya had earlier shown James Blake the forehand that won Roland Garros and reached the Australian Open final. Admittedly that match took a lot of energy out of Moya -- but he's a clay-courter; his endurance is fine. Fish managed to come back from a break down in the final set. This is a big result for the young American. At least morally. Last year, his best win was probably over Fabrice Santoro at the Australian Open. This is clearly a step above that. Points-wise, of course, it's only a quarterfinal. That should still move him up the rankings by about six spots." Big points or small, it was the start of big things for Fish -- who has turned himself into a Top 20 player in the year since this win.

January 9: Sydney - Quarterfinal
(2) Juan Carlos Ferrero def. (7) Paradorn Srichaphan 6-3 6-1
At the time, we said, "Last year, Paradorn Srichaphan started his incredible streak by reaching the Washington final, where he lost to James Blake.... Due mostly to cramping.,,, It's tough to criticize Srichaphan's results since then, but the one thing that might be a little suspect is his schedule. From Washington to the end of 2002, he played nine events. And 37 matches! And this year, he's already played two events. This was his eighth match of the year -- the most for any player who hasn't been in qualifying. Is there any surprise that he ran out of gas? ... Of course, Juan Carlos Ferrero came out with guns firing, and that helped too. It's a very nice win for Ferrero, who didn't play his first match of 2002 until Milan. This isn't going to improve his ranking by itself -- but every point he earns increases the gap between him and players #5-#7. It looks like he's just about guaranteed a post-Australian Open ranking of #3.... As for Srichaphan, well, he can't change his score much by playing optional events; he was too good last fall. Really, this is good news: He'll get a couple of extra days' rest before the Australian Open. Where he lost first round last year. A spot in the Top Twelve is very likely. At the rate he's going, he might even make the Top Ten by Miami." A year later, Ferrero is still looking at #3 following the Australian Open, and Srichaphan is still thinking about the Top Ten -- but it's Ferrero who looked tired (or something) this week.

January 27: Sydney - Final
Hyung-Taik Lee (Q) def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (2) 4-6 7-6(8-6) 7-6(7-4)
At the time, we said, "Juan Carlos Ferrero definitely got his Rebound Ace warmup in. In fact, he probably got in all the warmups he needed just in that last match.,,, What he didn't get, obviously, was a victory. That despite having a match point.... Formally, he should be happy, having posted one of his best-ever Rebound Ace results. He's now in a virtual tie with Marat Safin for the #3 Entry ranking, and Safin has 700 points to defend at Melbourne and Ferrero has nothing. Safin's only real hope for the #3 ranking after the Australian Open is to win the thing.... But, of course, Ferrero could have taken a clean hold on the #3 ranking. And he could have gotten out of that match a lot sooner, leaving more energy for Melbourne. Instead, he shows that he still is having problems with his consistency.... Not that Lee, who until now had only one final (and it at a much weaker event) is going to spend too much time justifying his result. For him, this spells the end of qualifying for a good long time -- and further establishes him as a real threat on hardcourts. #85 coming in, he'll move up nearly 20 places. And in a better ranking system, it might well be more, because, in addition to Ferrero, he beat Andy Roddick (who he had never beaten before) to win this title. [And] between now and Queen's, he has only three wins (one at Memphis, one at Delray Beach, and one at Houston) to defend. Even if you ignore the confidence boost this should give him, he has a real shot at moving up." Somehow, though, it never happened -- and now he's going to fall again. As for Ferrero -- well, we covered that already.

Five Years Ago: Todd Martin has had a strange up-and-down career, but only twice ended the season in the Top Ten. 1999 was his best year of all; he hit #4 in September, and ended the year at #7. And it started at Sydney -- his only title of the year, and it looks like there may not be any more.

Ten Years Ago: It was a great week and a lousy week for Michael Chang. He entered the best period of his career with a win at Jakarta (over David Rikl, for whom it was his only ATP final) -- but it cost him the chance to play at the Australian Open. Given his 1994 form, that just might have cost him his second career Slam title.

01-15-2004, 06:33 PM
rer (4) 6-2 6-3 [/b]
At the time, we said, "Roger Federer seems to operate in one of two modes, and both modes can be summed up by the phrase, 'Be very, very afraid.' In one mode, it is Federer's opponents who should be afraid. In the other, it's Federer himself.... There seems to be no way to tell, in advance, whether Federer will be extremely impressive or disastrously bad.

Amusing quote.

01-15-2004, 07:42 PM
Amusing perhaps, but extremely true thusfar.

01-28-2004, 05:05 PM
January 14: Australian Open - First Round
Jan-Michael Gambill (27) def. Michael Llodra 6-2 7-5 6-7(3-7) 4-6 6-2
At the time, we said, "2003 is definitely off to a better start for Jan-Michael Gambill than was 2002. He already has a nice final this year, and now he's won his first-ever Australian Open match.... We don't mean the first of the 2003 Open. We mean the first of his career. It only took him six tries. He's just never seemed to make it on Rebound Ace.... We still wouldn't bet much on his continued success, but he's having quite a year so far. As of right now (and at least until the end of the first round), he's #3 in the ATP Race. And, #33 coming in, this might just barely possibly be enough to get him back into he Top 30. Though the flip side is, he has a lot of points to defend in the next few months -- Memphis semifinal, San Jose semifinal, Delray Beach semifinal, Indian Wells third round, Miami third round. After that, it's easy (he had his usual clay luck this year: one win in six tournaments) -- but he has to hang on through the next couple of months.... This is likely to be a very disappointing Australian Open for Llodra. The Frenchman, #110 coming in, was one of the lowest-ranked entrants, and even one win might have given him a shot at the Top 100; two wins would have assured it. Instead, he'll stay about where he was -- which means playing qualifying for most of the big tournaments. And he was last year's doubles finalist, so he still has a lot to defend on that side...." Well, that was rather utterly wrong -- since Llodra won the Australian Open doubles. And after a dreadful 2003, he started 2004 quite well. As for Gambill, he's already slipped after Doha came off. Will he ever break the Rebound Ace jinx?

January 15: Australian Open - First Round
Andreas Vinciguerra (Q) def. Stefan Koubek (32) 6-4 6-4 6-1
At the time, we said, "Easy come, easy go.... Two weeks ago, Stefan Koubek was on top of the world, having taken home the title at Doha. He came to Melbourne ranked #35, his best standing in almost two years.... But that was with Australian Open quarterfinalist points to defend.... And it doesn't help that Koubek is anything but the model of a consistent player. He had a fair number of wins last year (20 all told), but that's in 31 events. He had 18 opening round losses, including eight to end the year; his last win came at Indianapolis. He's very vulnerable to the loss of a result here or there, because he earns most of his wins in a very few events. So it is here. #35 coming in, he'll fall below #50 next week despite the Doha title. (Though he'll have lots of time to rebuild; the next tournament where he won more than one match is Hamburg.)... Facing Andreas Vinciguerra didn't help. Vinciguerra had to qualify, but that's the result of injury and the ATP's ranking system. This is a guy who was working on a Top 30 ranking until he got hurt. And he's been back just about long enough to get back in form. And this is a good surface for him; he's played only three Australian Opens, but has a 6-3 record and made the fourth round in 2001.... Unfortunately for Vinciguerra, that means that he barely budges above his current ranking; he had second round points to defend, so all he gains are the 15 Entry points for qualifying. But the tournament is young...." A year later, Vinciguerra still doesn't have things back together -- and Koubek saw Doha come off, and has fallen to the lower reaches of the Top 100.

January 16: Australian Open - Second Round
Mardy Fish def. Carlos Moya (5) 3-6 7-6(10-8) 6-4 4-6 6-2
At the time, we said, "Carlos Moya is getting sick of this. Wherever he goes, Mardy Fish is following him. And, as of now, beating him.... The similarities to last week at Sydney are significant. In both cases, Fish faced Moya in a second round match. In both cases, it was a cliffhanger; the Sydney match ended with Fish winning 7-6(7-4) 4-6 6-4. And in both cases, it was arguably the best result of Fish's career. Certainly this is the best of his Slam career; it's the first time he's ever made a third round. (Though he has to face Wayne Ferreira next, so that may be it.)... Still, 2003 is looking very good for the young American. He came in #27 in the Race. Now, for the moment at least, he's Top 20. His ranking, of course, isn't nearly that high -- and he had qualifying and second round points from last year, so he's only gained 25 Entry points. Still, that should move him from #81 to around #78. And, given his results so far this year, it seems likely he will continue to rise. He has almost nothing between now and Indian Wells. Which means he's just about assured himself direct entry into Miami (and surely a wildcard if he doesn't earn direct entry). And chances are he'll keep going up from there.... For Moya, this tournament was potentially his big chance to rise. He may still make it to #4. But this loss means he cannot pass Juan Carlos Ferrero, and hence cannot rise to #3. He might even remain stuck at his current #5, especially if Roger Federer does well." This week marks the first time Fish really has to defend points -- not many, not for a guy who is now Top 25, but some; it's an interesting test, and he failed it. Moya, of course, came in at #7 -- but couldn't play, costing him a big opportunity to move up..

January 17: Australian Open - Second Round
Radek Stepanek def. Gustavo Kuerten (30) 5-7 6-3 7-5 4-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "And so the jinx continues.... It finally seemed as if Gustavo Kuerten had solved Rebound Ace. He won a title last week, and he came in with a six match winning streak on the stuff. And Radek Stepanek, though dramatically improved over the past year, isn't in his league. Even going into the fifth set, Kuerten had to think his chances were good. He is, after all, Gustavo Kuerten, master of outlasting guys.... But we blinked, and we missed it. We don't know what happened at the end. We do know that, for the fifth time in seven tries, Kuerten is out in the second round of the Australian Open (and he lost in the first round the other two times). That also means that all of the players with titles so far this year are out. So much for the value of warmups.... The loss means that Kuerten will not be breaking into the Top 25 just yet; he'll end at #26 or lower.... As for Stepanek, so great has been his improvement that he didn't even play Australian Open qualifying last year. He came in ranked #69. He'll probably hit the Top 60." It's hard to say what this indicated in the long term; Kuerten did hit the Top 20, and posted his best-ever Australian Open result this week, but has Indian Wells coming up; we're still waiting for his clay game to come back.

January 21: Australian Open - Fourth Round
David Nalbandian (10) def. Roger Federer (6) 6-4 3-6 6-1 1-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "We [told you] that picking the women's Match of the Day was tough. But that was nothing to this! Do we take the obvious and choose the upset of Lleyton Hewitt? Or Rainer Schuettler's first Slam quarterfinal? Younes El Aynaoui's shot for his best-ever Slam? Juan Carlos Ferrero's clinching of the #3 ranking? ... We finally picked this one, for two reasons (apart from the closeness of the contest): It was a glimpse of the future, and it finally settled the Top Ten. The two players here have a combined age of 42; we could potentially see these two playing rematches for the next ten or more years. And if they play like this, no one will be complaining.... The interesting thing is how far this went against form: Nalbandian gives evidence of the shotmaster's taste for clay or grass; Federer is mostly a modern-surface player, though he's had solid results on everything. This court would seem to favor Federer. But, perhaps, the conditions helped Nalbandian. Or maybe Federer just as in one of his moods.... Whatever the explanation, the result puts Nalbandian in the Top Ten for the first time, pushing Tim Henman down to #11 (and he could go lower). Nalbandian is guaranteed the #10 ranking (unless Younes El Aynaoui wins Melbourne), and he'll be #9 unless Sebastian Grosjean reached the semifinal. Federer may also benefit -- but not as much. At best, he'll move from #6 to #5, and Andy Roddick could still boot him if the American can reach the final." A year later, what can we say except that both guys continue to make progress -- but that Nalbandian, who used to have Federer's number, has it no more.

January 22: Australian Open - Quarterfinal
Wayne Ferreira def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (4) 7-6(7-4) 7-6(7-5) 6-1
At the time, we said, "It's been a long time coming for Wayne Ferreira. Eleven years ago, 20 years old and playing only his sixth Slam main draw (and his second Australian Open), he made the semifinal. He would end that year #12, and look like a Next Big Thing.... He never make a Slam semifinal since; in that whole time, he has only a couple of quarterfinals, and only three [times] since has he equalled or exceeded that year-end #12. Not exactly a light that failed -- not with over a dozen singles titles and almost as many doubles titles. But surely he would have liked to do better.... Now, at 31, he'll get another chance. Juan Carlos Ferrero continues to be up and down, and he was just down enough to let Ferreira into that long-awaited semifinal.... Even though Ferrero lost to a player ranked 35 places below him, he still has clinched the #3 ranking, and we suspect he'll keep it until Monte Carlo. Not bad as a consolation prize.... Ferreira came in with quarterfinalist points to defend (this is clearly his best Slam, even though he hasn't made much noise at other Rebound Ace events), and that makes it harder for him to move up. He came in ranked #39. This moves him to #27 or #28 (depending on how Rainer Schuettler does)." Sadly, it didn't lead to much; Ferreira lost the semifinal, has stayed around #30 since -- and now is falling since those points are off.

January 23: Australian Open - Quarterfinal
Andy Roddick (9) def. Younes El Aynaoui (18) 4-6 7-6(7-5) 4-6 6-4 21-19
At the time, we said, "How can we possibly describe this? The blown match point only half-way through the fifth set? The five hours of action? The difficult line call that saved the match for Roddick? The points played by the ballkids? ... We can't. We won't. Find a tape; that's all there is to it.... The irony is, for all the sound and fury, this match really didn't settle anything; the entry rankings are the same before as after: El Aynaoui stays at #20, with Rainier Schuettler or Wayne Ferreira having the chance to bump him to bump him to #21 (if Ferreira beats Schuettler in the final, in fact, El Aynaoui would be #22, which is where he came in). Roddick had made his way to #6, but he has to win one more match to move up higher (in which case he'll be #4).... And, of course, the marathon may affect Roddick in his next match against Schuettler, who had a relatively easy four-set match.... All told, Roddick played 83 games... Schuettler played 34. It's a big handicap. Still, it's Roddick's best ever Slam result -- both in terms of round reached and in ability to dig deep.... It's pretty good for El Aynaoui, too, despite the loss and the fact that he won't move up the rankings much. The Moroccan has always had problems with the required events. For the last couple of years, he's usually been holding between two and four titles -- and hasn't even threatened the Top Ten because it's all been optional points. This won't entirely cure that -- but 250 required points is a big help, especially with all the points El Aynaoui has to defend in coming months." Sadly, El Aynaoui stopped winning titles after this, and so stayed around #20, and now is falling. Roddick took half a .year to recover -- but wow did he recover when the time came!

January 24: Australian Open - Semifinal
Andre Agassi (2) def. Wayne Ferreira 6-2 6-2 6-3
At the time, we said, "There really isn't much to say about this match. Wayne Ferreira hasn't beaten Andre Agassi in ten tries, and this didn't change much.... But you have to think that Andre Agassi is within sniffing distance of another Australian Open title. He'll be well-rested going into the final, having had two days off. And he'll be facing an opponent who has never been in such a place before. It seems almost open-and-shut. That would give Agassi eight Slams, with six of them on hardcourts and four of them in Melbourne. Think this guy likes Rebound Ace? If he wins, he'll have more Melbourne titles than losses -- and a career record of 39-3 here. Plus a 21-match winning streak.... And a real shot at the #1 ranking later this year. If Agassi wins the final, he'll be within 250 points of Lleyton Hewitt, and Hewitt has big points (Indian Wells title) to defend before Agassi does. It's not a sure thing, but it's a fair likelihood.... No wonder Agassi talked, after the match, about how comfortable he is here! ... The good news for Ferreira, apart from making his second Slam semifinal after an 11-year wait, is that he's back in the Top 30 after a long absence. He's had a lot of recovering to do after his difficult 2001. We'd say he's back. Pretty good for a guy who turned 31 four months ago." Apart from leaving Ferreira with a pile to defend, there isn't much to add that won't be covered in our next match report.

January 26: Australian Open - Final
Andre Agassi (2) def. Rainer Schuettler (31) 6-2 6-2 6-1
At the time, we said, "If you blinked, you probably missed it. It was that quick.... In some ways, this reminded us of a women's match. Rainer Schuettler, we would note, was producing second serves not much faster than Martina Hingis's -- and Hingis's second serve doesn't work all that well even on the women's tour. Against Andre Agassi, that translated to exactly four holds by Schuettler in three sets and twelve service games -- and, like a women's match, Schuettler was almost as likely to pick up games by breaking as by holding.... It was, in fact, the worst blowout at the Australian Open in the Open Era. The last final in which the loser won fewer than six games was in 1967, when Roy Emerson beat Arthur Ashe 6-1 6-1 6-1. There really isn't much to say, except that it's over and we can move on to more competitive things.... The consolation for Schuettler is that he's now a strong #2 in the ATP Race (behind Agassi, of course), and is at a career-high of #15/#16 in the rankings (tied with Tommy Haas in points, but it appears that Schuettler win the tiebreak and will be #15). Though Schuettler had better use his improved seeding to grab some points while he can; this one results represents 45% of his total points. It's going to be hard to defend those next year.... But the real news is Agassi. Four-time Australian winner Agassi. Winner of eight Slams Agassi. Holder of a 21-match Melbourne winning streak Agassi. Best Rebound Ace player of all time Agassi. You get the idea.... In addition to the sundry entries in the record books, this makes 2003 look much more interesting. Agassi finds himself a mere 235 Entry points behind Lleyton Hewitt, and of course has a huge lead in points earned this year. 235 Entry points is half a Masters Series, and Hewitt owns the first Masters Series of the year, Indian Wells. (Though Agassi has the next title, at Miami.) In simplest terms (much too simple, really, because there are lots of other variables), if Hewitt loses before the final at Indian Wells, Agassi is #1. And, obviously, with a big leg up on the year-end #1.... Last year, whenever it seemed Hewitt's top ranking was endangered, he stepped up and defended it. But the Australian clearly wasn't as strong in the second half of the year as in the first -- this time, it looks like Agassi has a real chance at the top spot. And, potentially, yet another record, for oldest #1...." Obviously we nailed at least one potential consequence: Agassi did become the oldest #1 of all time. Schuettler, more impressively, rode this result to a Top Ten ranking and a Masters Cup berth and a very impressive year. Problem is, those points are off now, and even though it hasn't hurt him in the rankings yet, he'll be under a lot more pressure to defend all the others.

Five Years Ago: After winning Roland Garros in 1997, Yevgeny Kafelnikov had made only one quarterfinal in the next eight Slams, and had fallen out of the Top Ten at the end of 1998. He had missed two straight Australian Opens. He turned it all around by outsmarting Thomas Enqvist in four sets in the final for his second -- and, now, surely last -- Slam.

Ten Years Ago: By 1994, Pete Sampras had three career Slams, but have only once been past the Round of Sixteen in Melbourne. This was the year he broke the jinx -- he won his first Australian Open easily over Todd Martin, who was himself making his first appearance in a Slam final (Martin, in fact, had never won a match in Melbourne until that year). It's interesting to note that Martin is a year and a bit older than Sampras -- but he's still here, and Sampras is long gone.

01-28-2004, 05:33 PM
Hmm, I must have missed that 1997 RG title for Kafelnikov somewhere... still, a good read as usual.

02-26-2004, 05:21 PM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

February 18: Rotterdam - First Round
Ivan Ljubicic def. Tim Henman (5) 6-4 6-2
At the time, we said, "Every cloud may have a silver lining, but chances are it's tarnished by all that humidity.... For Tim Henman, the silver lining is that he's back. The cloud, of course, is that he's been out all year, and was struggling before that, and at 28, it's a lot harder to get back into form.... Plus, he was last year's finalist.... If Henman didn't have all those points to defend, this might not have been a bad result. Ljubicic is a very good player, and his serve is a huge weapon indoors; Henman wasn't very competitive, but in context, that isn't so bad. But Henman came in ranked #11, and this is going to drop him to no better than #12, and it could be lower.... Plus there is only one more indoor event (Copenhagen) before the ATP shifts to hardcourts, which is less friendly for Henman. And to top it all off, in the next month, Henman has a Dubai quarterfinal, the Indian Wells final, and a fourth round at Miami. He even made the semifinal at Monte Carlo. He could find himself out of the Top 20 after Indian Wells. A silver lining? Looks more like lead to us." From the perspective of a year later, of course, there is good news: Henman is in good form these days, and he has nothing to defend in the near future.

February 19: Rotterdam - First Round
Nicolas Escude def. (4) Albert Costa 6-3 6-3
At the time, we said, "It may not help his ranking much, but Nicolas Escude looks like he's going for the record books. Eleven straight at Rotterdam may not sound like much when compared to, say, Andre Agassi's current streak at the Australian Open, or some of Pete Sampras's streaks at Wimbledon. But since 1990, only two players -- Richard Krajicek and Escude -- have won Rotterdam twice. And only Escude has won it back to back. And now he's at it again.... This match was a case of 'I'm more questionable than you.' Escude had had to pull out of Marseille with a bad hamstring -- and he's French, so he didn't do it lightly. After the match, Escude admitted that he isn't entirely right yet: 'To be honest, I felt my thigh, but I had no fear. I am just trying to play my game. I don't take too many risks. If a ball is too far, I just say well played.' Costa is healthy -- but he's a clay-courter's clay courter; playing indoors is about like playing on a broken leg for him. In any case, this was a much bigger match for Escude than Costa. Costa didn't even bother with spring indoor events last year, and we have to suspect that he wouldn't have this year if his Roland Garros win hadn't made him a more desirable (read: Appearance Fee-able) player. But while you can lead a Spaniard to an indoor court, you can't make him win. And so Escude earned his eleventh straight Rotterdam win. Problem is, he needs four more to defend his points. It's barely even a start. At least it's better than losing. He'll probably need to do a lot better in the next round, though, when he faces none other than the other active two-time winner, Krajicek." In the end, of course, Escude wasn't up to the task, and 2003 turned into a lost year. At least he seems to be doing better this year. Though he's now out of Marseille with a wrist injury.

February 20: Rotterdam - Second Round
Nicolas Escude def. Richard Krajicek (WC) 6-3 6-7(1-7) 7-6(7-4)
At the time, we said, "Yes, we're doing it again: Two Escude matches in a row. Not our usual policy. But this was just too big: Two-time defending champion versus two-time past champion. And it was a great match, too, all two and a half hours of it. It will probably be the match of the tournament. Which is only fitting, when you think about it. Escude was up a break and serving for the match in the second when Krajicek broke back and took the tiebreak. But he couldn't sustain that level -- even Escude said he lost concentration -- and that let the Frenchman slip through.... For Escude, this stretches his winning streak to twelve matches at this event, and puts him one step closer to matching Arthur Ashe's record of three Rotterdam titles.... It also means that he has at least a shot at staying in the Top Fifty. It's going to be close. Our rough cut puts him at #51, but there is a lot still going on. One more win and he should be safe -- though he'll have to beat countryman Sebastien Grosjean to get that win. #50 may not sound like much -- but it gets him direct entry into just about everything.... Krajicek has to feel frustrated; he still isn't quite up to his old form, and obviously it wouldn't have taken much for him to win this. But the good news is, he's ranked low enough that Required and Optional isn't biting him yet; he's ranked mostly under Best 18. And so this goes on his record. He will pick up about three spots from his current #84." The aftermath for Escude we described above. As for Krajicek -- well, he's gone; what more is there to say?

February 23: Rotterdam - Final
Max Mirnyi def. Raemon Sluiter (WC) 7-6(7-3) 6-4
At the time, we said, "It's a dirty job, but somebody had to do it.... Max Mirnyi came to Rotterdam with two doubles Slams, but no singles titles and only one final (admittedly a pretty good one: the 2001 Stuttgart Masters). Raemon Sluiter was even worse off: He had one final, but at a much smaller event, and nothing to speak of in doubles.... But he loves indoors, and he loves playing in the Netherlands; his one previous final was at Amsterdam, on clay, which has been his worst surface in every other country. Mirnyi is unquestionably the better player -- but he also was far more tired, and he wasn't the fan favorite. And Sluiter had won their one career meeting, though that was on grass. It was close to a toss-up coming in.... But this week, we saw the Mirnyi who made that Stuttgart final, beating tough opponents right and left. He beat Kuerten (then the world's #1), Kafelnikov (#6), and Sampras (#10) that time. This time, it was Kafelnikov again plus Roger Federer. Apparently, it left him with just enough gas to finally pull out the big one. It was about as close as a two-set match could be; the only break came in the fifth game of the second set.... [And it halts] a long, slow ranking slide. This isn't a Masters, but it isn't much below (a 50-point Race event, only two slots below the Masters Series). That's enough to put him in the Top Ten in the Race. And, from #46, he will rise to about #35. At this rate, he might just get a seed at Roland Garros (where it won't do him any good) and Wimbledon (where, given his serve, it very well might). And he has -- as he himself said -- the monkey off his back.... [He] himself noted how strong the event is (sure, steal all our lines, Max): 'Today was a big pay off mentally. For many years people were saying that I was capable of winning tournaments and today I did. It is also special for me because I won my first title here in Rotterdam where there was a very strong field. It is a very reputable tournament and all the players want to come and compete here.' Sluiter benefits almost as much, because he started even lower. He came in ranked #72, barely below his career best. He'll be hitting the Top 50 for the first time." Mirnyi did go even higher in the course of the summer, finding a way to win on hardcourts as well as faster surfaces. If he can ever start to solve clay, he might turn into a true world-class singles player.

Five Years Ago: It was a surprisingly quiet week on the ATP, with only one event being played: Richard Krajicek beat Greg Rusedski at London. The home crowd had a bit more reason to cheer the doubles, won by Tim Henman and Rusedski.

Ten Years Ago: It was an off year for Thomas Muster; he won only three clay titles in 1994. He picked up his first one this week, at Mexico City. Also picking up his first title of the year were Michael Stich, the champion of Rotterdam, and Andre Agassi, winner at Scottsdale.

03-04-2004, 03:36 PM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

February 24: Copenhagen - First Round
Olivier Rochus def. (1) Jarkko Nieminen 6-3 6-2
At the time, we said, "Apparently the Top Fifty just don't like Copenhagen.... Only two Top Fifty players signed up for this tournament, and on the very first day, the number was cut in half. This leaves only Wayne Arthurs -- and he hasn't played yet.... Except for a brief period in the first set, it wasn't much of a match. Rochus went up 3-0, Nieminen perked up long enough to push it to 4-3, and then he went away again. Rochus was very happy with his own play, calling his start 'unbelievable'; Nieminen just wasn't up to his usual standards.... This is a funny match, rankings-wise, because Copenhagen is being played two weeks later this year than last. Rochus was last year's finalist, but those points are already off. Which makes this just another first round result; it's not going to affect his ranking noticeably. Still, Rochus ended 2002 very badly. He'd already improved things a bit in 2003. This represents another big step.... Nieminen lost first round at Copenhagen last year also -- to Rochus, no less. More important, he didn't play at this time last year. So his ranking won't be affected. At least he'll have plenty of time to practice on hardcourts for the upcoming Masters Series." A year later, it's starting to look like there is a pattern here: Rochus plays well early in the year, then fades. He once again pulled off an upset of a seed this week, this time at Dubai. Now if only he could do it during the rest of the year.

February 25: Dubai - First Round
Attila Savolt def. Tim Henman (4) 5-7 7-6 6-4
At the time, we said, "Tim Henman has played only two matches in 2003, and already it's starting to look like a long year.... It's perfectly normal for a player coming back from injury to struggle for a while. The curiosity is that Henman wasn't out for that long. But, of course, the problem was his shoulder. And his serve is important for him -- not so much that it gets him free points, but that he needs it to be on to get him to net so he can win with his volleys. Add to that the fitness problems that come from not playing much, and you get the picture.... The result is another painful loss. Twice painful: First, Henman had quarterfinalist points to defend; this will cause him to drop from #12 to #13 (conceivably lower). Plus, and probably worse, he misses another week of hardcourt practice -- on Decoturf, no less. That's with Indian Wells, where he was a finalist, only two weeks away. A bad result there could cost him his spot in the Top 20.... At least... Henman said his shoulder felt fine.... For Savolt, of course, it's just another first round match. It's a nice result -- last year, he won only one match before Indian Wells, and it wasn't here. He hasn't been doing much better this year. He will probably break into the Top 100 as a result (he came in at #102). But he won't move much." A year later, Henman is again out in the Dubai first round, but at least he's heading up the rankings, not down. Unlike Savolt, who has been almost invisible lately.

February 26: Dubai - Second Round
(6) Sjeng Schalken def. Fabrice Santoro 3-6 7-6(7-2) 7-6(7-5)
At the time, we said, "Maybe Fabrice Santoro is too healthy. Last year, he played the Dubai final with such a case of flu that he thought of going to the hospital instead. This year, his only trouble is that he's having a tough year.... And it's getting tougher. Neither Schalken nor Santoro was in great shape entering Dubai; Santoro was #40 in the ATP Race, Schalken an even worse #61. But it's a pretty good surface for Schalken, who had most of his career titles on hardcourts.... Santoro has all the shots anyone has ever thought of, and then some, but he couldn't get quite enough of them past the Dutchman.... And so the defending champion is out. It's a very tough loss, both because he had match point and because it's going to kill his ranking. Santoro came in ranked #33. But Dubai is as big as a non-Masters Series can get: A top-of-the-money-charts International Series Gold event. That translates to 300 Entry points to the winner. And Santoro started with only 1045 points. Nor does he have much else on his record -- a Madrid semifinal, a Toronto quarterfinal; not much in the way of optional events. He'll be falling to about #44. That's going to cost him seeding at a lot of events, and if he doesn't pick things up, it threatens his admission to the fall Masters Series (where the draw is only 48). A very tough loss indeed.... Schalken will obviously move up in the Race as a result of this match, but while he gains a few entry points (he lost in the second round last year, and a Gold quarterfinal is enough to count in his Optional Five), he won't move more than one entry spot unless he wins more than this." This was, really, the straw that broke Santoro's back. He's never recovered from it. It's interesting to note that he had almost the same result a year later: Lost, in three sets, to Schalken in the Dubai second round.

February 27: Dubai - Second Round
Hicham Arazi (WC) def. (8) Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-4 4-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "Some things make sense. Some things don't. Example of the latter: Hicham Arazi's 2002. Arazi, who had ended the year between #25 and #40 every year from 1997 to 2001, effectively fell off the face of the [earth]. He made the semifinal at Adelaide, but then went into a slump so bad that he didn't even make another quarterfinal until Stockholm; in nine events from Barcelona to Kitzbuhel, he won only two matches, both at Roland Garros, one of them over a Roger Federer who just wasn't there. He ended the year #76 in the Race, even lower in the Entry Rankings, and this year fell out of the Top 100 after Adelaide came off. But there seems to be almost a magic rule that some Moroccan will do well at Dubai. The expectation was that it would be Younes El Aynaoui, last year's finalist who has been playing very well in recent years. But he crashed and burned. That left only Arazi. And he had the good fortune to face Kafelnikov, who has fallen a bit in the world himself, if not nearly as much as Arazi. Kafelnikov was a quarterfinalist last year, but that's not likely to cost him much; he should stay Top 25. For #113 Arazi, though, this comes close to a breakthrough; not only is it a quarterfinal, but it's a quarterfinal at a very big event. He should gain more than 15 ranking spots, meaning that he is finally back in the Top 100. And that, in turn, means that he will probably get to play Roland Garros and defend those important points there. Even if Arazi hasn't solved whatever ailed him, it's still a pretty good day's work. As he admitted. After the match, he gave an explanation of sorts for his recent troubles: 'I didn't have too much confidence. It's been a long time since I played on center court, like here in Dubai. I'm happy not about the quality of the match I played but because I stayed there and didn't get upset.... When I don't feel comfortable on the court, I get stressed and upset but it's getting better with age I think. Kafelnikov didn't play his best tennis today and I didn't play that great either. But I'll try to play much better in the next match.... Last year I didn't want to travel too much. I was not too motivated, I just wanted to stay home.'" A year later, Arazi really does seem to be back. The guy with motivation problems is Kafelnikov, who has finally given up and retired.

March 2: Dubai - Final
(1) Roger Federer def. (3) Jiri Novak 6-1 7-6(7-2)
At the time, we said, "Roger Federer, it appears, is about to learn the Younes El Aynaoui Lesson: You can only go so far with optional events.... Federer already has two pretty good titles this year (Marseilles and Dubai). He has two still on from last year also (Vienna and Hamburg). With this result, he moves up to #3 in the ATP Race. He has won 14 of his last 15 singles matches (counting Davis Cup) So why isn't he ranked higher? Answer: Because he only gets to count five optional events, and he's pretty well filled those slots. If he wants to do better, he'll have to start posting the wins at the required events. And that -- Hamburg aside -- hasn't been happening. His Race ranking is pretty meaningless; he can't continue to add optional events at this rate. They won't count. Still, Federer pads his resume yet a little more. This is career title #6 for Federer, and his first ever on DecoTurf (three of his titles -- Milan 2001, Vienna 2002, and Marseilles 2003 -- have been indoors; Sydney 2002 was on Rebound Ace, and Hamburg of course on clay). It moves him up to #4 in the Entry Rankings. Only problem is, one of his handful of big required results -- the Miami final -- is getting awfully close. The match itself was probably closer than it looked. Federer commented, 'Against Jiri the rallies are long and it's tough, because he moves around and gets a lot of balls back deep. I have to work hard against him and at one stage we were both looking for some air. Maybe my advantage was that I served a little better and varied my game a little more.' Maybe, just maybe, if he keeps that up, he'll start winning at the required events, too -- in which case it might be time for Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi to watch out." Obviously you know how that turned out.

Five Years Ago: Jan-Michael Gambill won the first title of his career, beating Lleyton Hewitt in the Scottsdale final.

Ten Years Ago: Considering that he won ten titles this year, it was rather a long wait for Pete Sampras: He hadn't won anything since the Australian Open. He ended the drought by beating Petr Korda in the Indian Wells final.

03-10-2004, 04:47 PM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

March 3: Scottsdale - First Round
Thomas Enqvist (WC) def. (1) Andre Agassi 6-7(7-9) 6-4 6-1
At the time, we said, "Maybe Andre Agassi's alarm clock didn't go off. He doesn't often play daylight matches in the United States. And he won't be playing any more at Scottsdale, either. We've stopped trying to explain Agassi first round losses. There is no explanation except that he suffers (proportionally) a lot of them. We might speculate that he's trying to save energy for Indian Wells and Miami. But, of course, it's also possible that Thomas Enqvist is finally back. Certainly he's due. He's been struggling with his shoulder all year, and had only one match win, and wasn't even in the Top 100 in the ATP Race. But he's far better than that -- and far better than his current #73 ranking. Agassi -- well, his winning streak this year ends at 12 matches. His #1 Race standing isn't threatened, and neither is his #2 entry ranking. But this does make the contest for #1 much more interesting. Suddenly Lleyton Hewitt actually has a chance to gain some ground on Agassi. Hewitt came in with a lead of only 30 Entry points over Agassi.... This, however, means that Hewitt has regained control of his destiny. If he wins Scottsdale and Indian Wells, Agassi can't pass him. And Agassi has Miami to defend after that.... Suddenly, things are looking much more interesting. For Enqvist, of course, it's just a first round win as far as the ATP is concerned. Very welcome -- but he [increases his total by] exactly ten entry points for it. Yawn." As it turned out, of course, Enqvist really hadn't turned back into his old self. This year, though, is another matter.

March 4: Scottsdale - First Round
Giovanni Lapentti (Q) def. (4) Paradorn Srichaphan 7-6(7-2) 6-2
At the time, we said, "You read that right. Giovanni Lapentti. The little brother.... Until this year, Giovanni was Challenger bait, except for one big win against Britain in Davis Cup doubles. In 2002, he didn't make an ATP main draw; he played qualifying at Halle and Wimbledon.... winning one match at Halle and none at Wimbledon. Even in Challengers, he spent most of his time in qualifying, and except for making the final at Quito (where he lost to Dick Norman), he never made his way past the quarterfinal.... Then came this year's Davis Cup tie. Where he beat none other than Marcelo Rios. True, it was a Rios covered with rust -- but it was easily the biggest win of his career.... And now he's taken the next step: An ATP event.... And he didn't stop there; he beat one of the best players in the world.... We find ourselves wondering a little about Srichaphan. He started this year as he ended last: Brilliantly. But things haven't gone well since. He had 50 Race points following the Australian Open. Since then, he's earned only 7, including the one he earns here. That despite playing fairly regularly. We can only guess, but -- has all that success last year finally caught up with him?" The answer, in hindsight, seems to be "No"; Srichaphan continues to be a play who sometimes does very well but who also suffers a lot of bad losses. As for Giovanni, he continues to climb, but slowly; the Top 100 remains a goal.

March 5: Delray Beach - Second Round
Hyung-Taik Lee def. Michel Kratochvil 6-2 6-3
At the time, we said, "There is nothing like the second round of a tournament where all the seeds lose early. We can't talk about upsets; there aren't enough of them. We can't talk about players making big ranking jumps; quarterfinal points at low-level optional events don't make much difference to anyone you're likely to have heard of.... But we can always talk about who is and isn't hot. Michel Kratochvil isn't, but Hyung-Taik Lee certainly is. Lee of course won his first title this year. But that alone wouldn't have been enough to put him in the Top 25 in the Race. He's been fairly consistent, at least on hardcourts, and he's threatening top players more and more.... In a way, it's surprising; Lee is 27 now, and people have known about him for more than two years. But he's a late bloomer, as that 2000 U. S. Open showed. It's fairly normal for a player to show early promise and then only later settle down to consistency. Lee is merely following the usual cycle four or five years late. And so, at this tournament where the majority of seeds went out in the first round and the rest aren't ranked very high, Lee has a good chance to do a lot of damage. As it is, it looks as though he'll be Top 20 in the Race before this is over." Problem was, Lee didn't manage to maintain the results, and has done nothing in 2004; he's been sliding. As for Kratochvil, he was in the pits in 2003, and there he remains.

March 6: Scottsdale - Second Round
Lleyton Hewitt (1) def. Wayne Ferreira 7-5 6-1
At the time, we said, "Another day, another complete lack of drama.... Yes, we know, that's unfair. But it was a day with few surprises and few big news stories. No defending champions falling dozens of places in the rankings. No young surprises showing off their potential. In short, nothing that's worth reading about when you could be watching.... But at least we're seeing signs that the real Lleyton Hewitt is still around. Especially since this is a match where he found a way to win. He started slowly, picked it up a little in the first set, then went into overdrive in the second. And that, of course, against a very tough opponent who has been getting back into top form this year. Hewitt's record coming in wasn't that bad, officially -- 4-1. But he wasn't solving problems the way he did last year: Either he came out with enough to win, or he didn't, and that was that. Not this time.... It's still only a second round match, and a trivial number of points for the #1 player in the world. It will make no difference at all in next week's contest for #1. But if Hewitt can get to the final, or win, it will improve his chances of staying number #1. Plus he'll send a message to the world that he's still here. In a close match, that can be worth a lot...." The problem, of course, was that Hewitt soon lost that aura again. He's showing signs of getting it back this year. But only signs.

March 9: Delray Beach - Final
Jan-Michael Gambill (4) def. Mardy Fish 6-0 7-6(7-5)
At the time, we said, "In a battle of nerves, Mardy Fish was outgunned.... This final brought pressure to both players, but there is no question that Fish suffered more. Gambill was looking for his first title in precisely two years, but Fish was looking for his first ever. He'd never even been in a final before.... And so things followed pretty much the standard script: Fish nervous in the first, playing a little better in the second when things looked hopeless, and then struggling at the key moment; he won the first three points of the tiebreak then came unglued. In the past, Fish has matched up against Gambill rather better; they played at this tournament last year, and Fish pushed Gambill to three sets in a second round match. Still, he's been making himself more and more of a force over the past year, and that doesn't change.... Fish's ranking has been climbing steadily this year; he came in at #66. This is going to take him to another career high just short of the Top Fifty. Though, of course, his success here kept him out of Indian Wells qualifying. On the other hand, with his ranking where it is, he shouldn't have to worry about Masters Series qualifying again any time soon. The flip side of that is that he's going to be coming under Required and Optional, and that's been pretty close to fatal for some players. And let's not forget Gambill. This tournament, and this week, have always been magic for him; every title he's ever won has been at this time of the year. And now, for the first time, he can claim two titles at the same event, having won here in 2001 as well. With the win, he returns himself to the Top 10 in the ATP Race (though we note that that's all optional points; a more realistic assessment would put him at #15 or so). More important, he'll be moving up about four spots in the rankings. He's getting close to being seeded at Miami -- and at Wimbledon." The aftermath, of course, has been better for Fish, who has fixed himself fairly firmly in the Top 25 and also earned his first title last year.

Five Years Ago: (We can't really list anything here; we covered Scottsdale last week.)

Ten Years Ago: This was a sort of an off week sandwiched between Indian Wells and Miami; only one tournament was played -- and it an oddity in itself: Zaragoza was a carpet event in Europe sandwiched between two hardcourt events in the U. S. (Of course, they had another carpet event scheduled against Indian Wells.) Magnus Larsson won Zaragoza to pick up the first of his three titles that year; it started him on track for a brief entry into the Top Ten about a year later.

03-31-2004, 08:21 AM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

March 19: Miami - First Round
Nicolas Escude def. Dominik Hrbaty 7-6(7-2) 4-6 6-4
At the time, we said, "Nicolas Escude is a true expert at making life tough for himself. The guy just oozes talent, and on a good day and a fast court he can beat anybody -- but he fades in and out so fast, it's scary.... Of course, in this instance, he had an excuse: He's just back from an injury that cost him the chance to defend his Rotterdam title. Which hit him pretty hard in the rankings, and explains why he wasn't even close to being seeded here. And he genuinely likes his courts faster. But he looked to be in control going into the second set, and lost his grip, and ended up having to play three when he didn't have to.... The good news for him is, once Miami is over, he has absolutely nothing to defend until 's-Hertogenbosch. (We told you he likes fast courts; last year he played three clay events, and didn't win a match; he won exactly one clay set in 2002.) But here in Florida, he has third round points to defend. This helps a bit -- had he lost this match, he would have fallen from his current #67 to about #72. But he will still fall a spot (or two or three) if he doesn't win his next match. Of course, that match is against rusty Tim Henman.... And with his ranking down where it is, it appears he won't be required to play the clay Masters. Maybe he can find some weak tournaments where he can actually win some matches before the surfaces get faster.... Dominik Hrbaty used to be pretty good at Miami, with a quarterfinal in 1999 and fourth rounds in 1997 and 2000. But this is his second straight opening-round loss. Which means he'll be staying right around his current #55." A year later, Hrbaty is hovering around #30, but needs some required points to move higher; obviously Miami was pure opportunity for him. As for Escude, he's clearly back this year; now it's a matter of defending a few odd points here and there until Wimbledon, after which it's all gravy.

March 20: Miami - First Round
Michael Chang (WC) def. Nicolas Kiefer 6-2 6-2
At the time, we said, "Nobody is going to lie and tell you it was a great match. Kiefer's official numbers: 48% of first serves in play. 50% of first serve points won. 15 winners, 27 unforced errors. Formally, it was quite forgettable. And, given the way Kiefer and Chang have *both* been playing lately, you could argue that the real shame was that it happened at all: Both these guys should have been lined up against stronger players, so that a said stronger player could have come through. But time and luck of the draw happen to everyone. Some have argued that Michael Chang should just go away (probably after being subjected to one of his little sermons) -- but if he's here, at least let him be competitive once in a while. It hasn't happened often. Chang came to Miami tied for #151 in the ATP Race, with three points. That's three first round losses -- and he wouldn't have had those if it weren't for wildcards. This time, at least he won. (And doubled his Race total with it.) And it even helped his ranking a little. Last year, Chang lost here first round -- his seventh straight loss of 2002. (He did win one match at Houston; that was his only ATP win prior to Wimbledon.) He's down to #122, and it's hard to believe he'll ever see the Top 100 again. Nor is he likely to be offered wildcards to Roland Garros or Wimbledon. But for a week, at least, this should move him above #120.... As for Kiefer -- well, if he were Chang's age, he would probably be the one under pressure to retire; that's how badly he's been doing. But at least he wasn't defending anything. He should stay close to his current #74 ranking." A year later, Chang has had mercy on his fans and packed it in -- but Kiefer is actually on his way back, and he is still playing with the tournament more than half over.

March 23: Miami - Third Round
Marcelo Rios (28) def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (3) 6-3 7-6(7-2)
At the time, we said, "Everybody loves Miami. If they didn't, it wouldn't feature such strong fields. But there is love and there is love.... There aren't many people who love it more than Marcelo Rios. It's not the only Masters Series he's won (in fact, he's won five of the nine, though never more than once at any of them). And his record at the clay Masters is generally better than here.... But it was his Miami title in 1998 that made him #1, and it was and remains the best title he's ever taken home. And his weak years since 1999, it's still been his best friend. Last year, at non-Miami Masters, Rios went 8-6 and never made it past the third round. (Admittedly missing two clay Masters didn't help.) But at Miami he went 4-1 and reached the semifinal -- the best result on his record right now, and arguably his best since the 2000 Hamburg semifinal.... Prior to this year, [Ferrero] was 3-3 here, with his best result being a fourth round showing. As of now, he's 4-4. Ferrero plays well everywhere -- and it showed in the long points, with both players scrambling and producing a wide variety of shot and taking the net. But Ferrero's game really is built for clay, and Rios's stuff seems to work everywhere (well, except grass, and he really ought to try that sometime; imagine what he could do with his spins on grass if he wanted to!)... There wasn't any doubt about the order of the top three when Miami ended; it was guaranteed to be Hewitt, Agassi, Ferrero, with Carlos Moya the likeliest candidate for #4. But this emphasizes things: Two of the top three are now out, meaning that the only question is how close Andre Agassi will be to Hewitt and Ferrero to Agassi.... Rios, of course, still has to defend two more rounds to defend his points. He could still fall to about #40. But he's already saved himself about five ranking spots with these results. And he has a shot at the Top 25 in the Race even though he missed the early part of the year. Could we finally be seeing signs of the old Rios?" If we were, those signs didn't lead anywhere, since he vanished after this -- so completely that it was thought he would retire, though he ended up having surgery and will probably try a comeback. Lucky for him there are injury rankings. As for Ferrero, this week represented his last chance to build up his ranking before he has to start desperately defending on clay -- and he didn't play.

March 24: Miami - Third Round
Younes El Aynaoui (19) def. David Nalbandian (10) 6-3 4-6 6-4
At the time, we said, "Call it a change of life. Younes El Aynaoui seems to be going through them regularly.... The first one came about two years ago; as the Moroccan turned 30, he also turned into a winner. Prior to his thirtieth birthday, he had only two career titles (and the first came when he was 27 and the second came only a week before his thirtieth birthday, so it hardly counts). But last year, at 30/31, he won three.... And now, as he moves toward birthday #32, he seems to be making another shift. This time, he's adapting to the ATP's Required and Optional system. El Aynaoui's problem in recent years has been that he's done very well indeed at the optional events, but optional events don't help. He had so many strong optional results last year that, for most of the year, he had finalist points that didn't count toward his ranking. And so he never went much above #20, because he wasn't doing well at the big events.... Now he's doing it at the required events as well -- rather at the expense of the optionals, in fact; he hasn't won a title yet this year. But who can forget his grand run at the Australian Open -- equalling the best Slam result of his career. And now, for the first time ever, he's in the fourth round of a Masters. (Admittedly, it's the Round of Sixteen, and he's made it that far before. But still, he's never made a fourth round.) If he can keep this up, he just might be ready to really move toward the Top Ten. Of course, playing David Nalbandian helps. It's true that Nalbandian first caught everyone's eyes at the 2001 U. S. Open, where he reached the third round playing in his first Slam main draw. But his overall results scream 'clay and grass player.' (Yes, they exist!) And even so, El Aynaoui barely topped him.... Rankings-wise, this particular win doesn't help El Aynaoui much. Just showing up put him in the Top 20. But he'll need to win one more to move above #19 (his likely ranking as of now). It's more painful for Nalbandian: He could have moved up to #9 had he won, but instead remains at #10." The story for both players, lately, has been injury; El Aynaoui has been out since before the Australian Open, and Nalbandian is always struggling with his wrist. Still, the Argentine has been able to keep his ranking quite high. Not so El Aynaoui. This week, he's sliding again.

March 25: Miami - Fourth Round
Albert Costa (9) def. Guillermo Coria (26) 7-5 3-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "After winning Roland Garros last year, Albert Costa -- never the greatest on non-clay surfaces anyway -- seemed almost to have decided that winning on other surfaces wasn't worth the bother. He had 340 Race points at that time -- and ended the year at 414. This year hasn't been much better as he came in with a Race standing of #61. That's based on 29 Race points. That despite the huge seeding advantage he's enjoyed this year compared to the same time in 2002. But maybe he's finally ready to do something about that. At least, he didn't give up when things went bad. At first, it looked like he was going to cruise to an easy straight-sets win. Then Guillermo Coria seemed to wake up; he won the last games of the second set to level things. But Costa steadied down, broke early in the third, and made it stand up. And by winning, Costa almost doubles his Race points. 54 Race points isn't a great score; he isn't even Top 30 yet -- but no one really expects him to perform miracles on hardcourts. He just needs to win some matches while making hay on clay. The win means that Costa will move up to #7 in the rankings -- a significant consideration for his seeding on clay this year. As for Coria, #29 coming in, he would have been Top 25 had he won, but he'll have to settle for #26. And he would have been Top Ten in the Race. Instead, he ends up no better than #11. Still, he, like Costa, has reason to expect good things from clay...." Obviously Coria earned good things from clay -- and other surfaces. As for Costa, this was his high point of the year. But we'll get to that.

March 25: Miami - Quarterfinal
Carlos Moya (5) def. Robby Ginepri 6-7(5-7) 6-3 7-6(7-4)
At the time, we said, "Maybe they should pass a law against letting handsome young men play tennis. The glamor guy act seems to interfere with their tennis. Think Andre Agassi early in his career. But think also Carlos Moya.... Moya obviously had talent from day one. He won his first title (Buenos Aires 1995) just a few months after his nineteenth birthday. By the time he turned 22, he had a Slam and five other titles including a masters Series. But it wasn't until last year that he won three titles in a year. And, for the first time, he won a Masters away from clay. To do it took work: He had to get healthy and stay healthy, he had to get fit, he had to get determined. The Moya of 2003 has become a different player from the one we saw in five years ago.... Well, for most of the match he was a different player. He rather messed up in the first set, but then settled down to a very tough almost two-and-a-half-hour win. He's getting very close to clinching the #4 ranking, and is moving up in the Top Ten in the Race. And that's with the clay season still to come. This looks like it could be a very good year for the Spaniard. It isn't so bad for Ginepri, either, who after years of being an afterthought in the American depth chart suddenly finds himself a sought-after commodity. By getting as far as he did, he finds himself in the Top Fifty -- which in turn means that he'll be getting direct entry into Rome and Hamburg and the Canadian Open and Cincinnati. And, of course, all the lesser events. (It's too late for him to qualify for Monte Carlo, and the fall Masters Series have smaller fields. But, at this rate, it may not matter.) Ginepri started this year ranked #102, meaning that he's cut his ranking in half in less than three months. Only two other Top 100 players have climbed faster. One of them is Rainer Schuettler, the other is Gustavo Kuerten. Pretty good company, we'd say...." Moya had a slightly harder time late in 2003, of course, so he didn't go as high as he might, but certainly it was a good year. As for Ginepri, these points helped set him on his way to the Top 30. But now they're off, and he isn't there any more.

March 27: Miami - Quarterfinal
Albert Costa (9) leads Roger Federer (4) 7-6(7-4) 4-6 6-5, Deuce
At the time, we said, "Tennis is an international game, but there are still national 'styles': Spanish players stay at the baseline, hit a lot of variety, and patiently wait for mistakes. Most young Americans live at the baseline and hit very hard. British players are usually to be found at the net. Croats serve big but don't follow it in, and they make strange errors.... The Swiss style? It seems to consist of having every shot you can imagine -- and a real disconnect when it comes to knowing what to do with them. Think Patty Schnyder. Think Martina Hingis since 2000. But think, most of all, Roger Federer.... It was an odd performance: If we'd shown you a tape of the match in which we cut out the decisive shot of every rally, you'd probably think Federer won easily. Then you'd go into shock when you saw the score.... Federer's inability to win the big points when it counted definitely cost him. He blew all sorts of chances to break in the first set, and ended up in a tiebreak, which he lost. He won the second set relatively easily, then went up a break in the third, only to serve for the match and blow match points; Costa broke back, and held, and that made it 6-5 with Federer having to serve to stay in the match. It should have been over at least an hour earlier -- but instead, he was still out there when the rain -- which had been interjecting the occasional comment for most of the match -- finally became too heavy to continue. Can he come back fresh in his second try for the Miami semifinal?" Federer, as it proved, could not; Costa went on to the semifinal, which -- since he still had Roland Garros on his record -- moved him from #9 to #7 in the world. But he didn't do enough on clay to defend after that, and he failed to defend this year, and will be falling out of the Top 30.

March 30: Miami - Final
Andre Agassi (2) def. Carlos Moya (5) 6-3 6-3
At the time, we said, "There isn't much point in talking about this match; Agassi came, he played brilliantly, he won his third tournament of the year. What else is new? For that matter, is there any point in quoting statistics about Andre Agassi and hardcourts? Maybe he isn't the greatest of all time (though he could make a pretty good claim). But he's certainly the greatest of the last five years. And he has the titles to show for it: Six hardcourt Slams, and now twelve hardcourt Masters. It's too bad that he and Lleyton Hewitt meet so rarely; it would be nice to see them really settle this #1 business. But it may not matter. Because Agassi is getting pretty close to settling it even without facing Hewitt. We go into the clay season with Agassi having nearly a 200 Race point lead on the Australian. And Agassi is a better clay player than Hewitt, though Hewitt is probably better on grass (and perhaps indoors as well). It's going to take real heroics for Hewitt to catch up with Agassi this year. Yes, it can happen -- but don't bet on it. Ironically, Agassi has almost no chance to gain on Hewitt in the Entry rankings prior to Roland Garros, and the door doesn't really open until Wimbledon. Agassi has the Rome title to defend, Hewitt has nothing. Agassi made the Roland Garros quarterfinal, Hewitt the fourth round. And Agassi, even though he defended his points at Miami, still finds himself ranked behind Hewitt going into the clay season. Still, if Hewitt fails to defend at Wimbledon, watch out.... Even though he didn't win his second hardcourt Masters, it was a pretty good week for Moya, too. He's gone from #22 in the Race to #7, and he climbs from #5 to #4 in the Entry Rankings. #4, and gaining ground on Juan Carlos Ferrero rapidly. He probably can't hope to get to #1 at this rate -- but he has a genuine shot at #3 come Monte Carlo. And if he keeps playing the way he's been playing in the last year, he should stay Top Five for a long time, and maybe even pick up that elusive second Slam." None of that, of course, happened. But what's really interesting to note is that, since winning Miami, Agassi has only one title, and it very small and weak (Houston). He finally lost this year -- but you can see today's Match of the Day for coverage of that.

Five Years Ago: We actually already covered Miami 1999, won by Richard Krajicek in his best-ever hardcourt showing. But we don't have anything else to talk about, because the week after Miami 1999 didn't have any ATP events.

Ten Years Ago: As in 1999, so in 1994: The week after Miami was a Davis Cup week.

04-03-2004, 12:13 PM
"Ten Years Ago: If you look at Marc Rosset's results now ..." *sigh*

Why did he fall off?

04-03-2004, 12:16 PM
Thanks TBE:D!!!

04-09-2004, 09:29 AM
Davis Cup Week -- no matches played until Friday

March 6: Davis Cup - France vs. Switzerland
Roger Federer def. Fabrice Santoro 6-1 6-0 6-2
At the time, we said, "What makes this match bigger than all other matches this weekend? Answer: It meant something.... You'd think that Davis Cup quarterfinals would be at least vaguely contested. After all, these are teams that managed to beat someone good in the earlier rounds. You'd think so, and you'd be wrong. Of the four quarterfinals, only this one was really in doubt. And, initially, the odds seemed to favor France. They had the better doubles team. If they were weaker in the #1 singles department, well, they were much stronger in #2 singles, with Nicolas Escude thought to have at least a chance to beat Federer. The French came in with two matches (those against George Bastl) almost in the bag. (And, indeed, they won both.) That gave them three shots to win the tie. First, Escude might beat Federer on Friday -- but he didn't. Then, the French might win the doubles -- but they didn't. This was their last chance: Grosjean might beat Federer. Only Grosjean didn't play; he had hurt his left leg in the singles. That left Santoro. And -- well, Santoro is great at driving opponents crazy. But Federer isn't the ideal guy to try that against, because he has so much variety himself. And a big edge in the power categories. His play was so dominant that it literally seemed to daze Santoro -- at one point, he forgot which side of the court to stand on. The whole thing took less than an hour and a half. And so, Federer -- not for the first time, as American fans know too well! -- won all three points of the tie, and it's Switzerland in the semifinal. The French had, on paper, one of the best teams out there. But, sometimes, the way you apply the pressure can be more important than the amount of pressure you apply. France was better at every position except #1 singles. This time, having the top singles player was all Switzerland needed." It's interesting to note that France left Santoro out off the team in the ties since then. But not even Federer could drive Switzerland beyond this point.

Five Years Ago: As with the women, we're looking at the time two weeks after Miami. In that week in 1999, Byron Black won the second and last of his career titles, beating Rainer Schuettler at Chennai. It was the second final of Schuettler's career, and the first that he didn't win.

Ten Years Ago: The "other" Costa, Carlos (truthfully, he was "the" Costa back then, when Albert had just barely turned pro and was still looking for his first title) won the fifth of his six career titles at Estoril, beating Andrei Medvedev in the final. Medvedev was still only 19, and the loss broke a nine-match winning streak for him at Estoril. Even more amazing, this final was the ninth of his career, and he'd won six of them. He would win two Masters in 1994, and one in 1995, and then -- well, you know the story too well....

04-16-2004, 12:03 PM
April 7: Estoril - First Round
John Van Lottum def. (1) Jiri Novak 6-7(5-7) 6-4 7-5
At the time, we said, "John van Lottum got his birthday present early.... Van Lottum turns 27 on Thursday, but it was on Monday that he earned the biggest win of his career, upsetting Jiri Novak at Estoril. More impressive, he did it by coming back from 3-0 down in the final set, winning five of the next six games -- and though Novak broke to level things at 5-5, van Lottum quickly broke back to take the match. In the process, Van Lottum doubles his ATP win total for the year; he came in 1-2. Psychologically, it is of course a very big win for the Dutchman. Rankings-wise, though, it's only a first round win. Of course, when one is ranked where van Lottum is (#105), even a first round win has value; he'll gain a couple of spots, but he'll probably need at least one more win to hit the Top 100. As for Novak, he didn't even play during this week last year, so it doesn't affect him at all." The year since has been fairly good for van Lottum, but he's still waiting for Top 50-hood. Novak has seen his ranking slide lately; he was injured for much of the spring.
We did have another bit of news on this day, as Magnus Larson called it a career.

April 8: Estoril - First Round
Feliciano Lopez def. Rainer Schuettler (2) 6-1 4-6 7-5
At the time, we said, "It wasn't as if Rainer Schuettler could move up in the Race anyway. Might as well save some time and lose early.... Really, this wasn't a particularly big surprise. Yes, Schuettler was the #2 seed. Yes, he's speedy. But speed does not, by itself, make a clay-courter -- just look at Lleyton Hewitt, whose worst surface is clay. Clay rewards speed and steadiness, but it also rewards a certain approach, and Schuettler lacks that. Last year, that translated into three opening-round losses on clay in seven tournaments on the stuff, and only once did he make it past the second round.... And playing Feliciano Lopez didn't help. Lopez isn't ranked all that high, but he's beaten some pretty good players -- including Schuettler at Wimbledon last year, as well as Guillermo Canas. He also posted wins last year over Felix Mantilla (on clay!), Marat Safin, Younes El Aynaoui, Arnaud Clement, Xavier Malisse, and Dominik Hrbaty among others. He is not the guy you want to face in an opening match. And Lopez had extra incentive; his girlfriend Maria Sanchez Lorenzo had won the match before on that very court. He showed real ability to dig deep in the final set, saving five break points and then breaking to close out the match.... Despite posting the second-biggest upset of the tournament so far, Lopez probably won't be moving up much in the rankings; it's only a first round match, and he has some qualifying points here from last year. As for Schuettler, he didn't play here last year, so he isn't affected at all. Except that he won't be gaining any ground in the ATP Race, anyway." The only good news for Schuettler, a year later, is that he finally has a chance to move up in the coming weeks. But he'll have to do it on clay. As for Lopez, he's up to around #30 these days, so it's clearly been a good year for him.

April 9: Estoril - Second Round
Agustin Calleri def. Jarkko Nieminen (8) 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "Jarkko Nieminen said beforehand that this would be tough. He probably wishes he weren't such a good prophet.... There wasn't much to say about the match; Nieminen admitted that Calleri was just too good. The Argentine has, after all, been having his best year ever (he won his first title earlier this spring), and clay is his favorite surface anyway. But the big news is Nieminen, last year's finalist. That was perhaps the biggest result of his career so far, and certainly the biggest on clay. (He also made the Mallorca final, but that's a weaker tournament.) It's a particularly tough loss because Nieminen's results could almost be designed to hurt him under the ATP ranking system. The ATP rankings reward players who win a lot of matches at a few tournaments, even if they lose early at others. Nieminen doesn't do that; he tends to win one match here and two matches there and end up with a lot of wins and relatively few of them helping his ranking. When he does earn big points like this, he wants to defend them. And he didn't. He came in ranked #32. This will cost him about five spots. And, given that Mallorca is coming up, that means that he probably just lost his seed at Roland Garros. The consolation prize is that he'll get to play the clay Masters this spring. But, of course, that means three more optional events -- and three more small results from here and there -- off his record.... As for Calleri -- well, it's still only a quarterfinal at a medium-small optional event. Though he lost first round last year, so at least it helps a little. He should gain one or two spots from his current #37. At this rate, he may well get the Roland Garros seed Nieminen just lost." As, indeed, it turned out; Calleri had a monster clay season, and has been riding it ever since. Nieminen -- well, he seems to have settled in right around #35.

April 10: Casablanca - Second Round
Younes El Aynaoui (1) def. Magnus Norman 6-4 3-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "It does not do to bet against Younes El Aynaoui at Casablanca.... No, he isn't invincible here. As a matter of fact, he has only one title at his home tournament. But he doesn't often lose early, either. Way back in 1993, he reached his first final here. Last year, he finally won the tournament. And prior to that, he had three straight quarterfinals (though not in consecutive years; he missed the event in 1998 and 1999); counting last year and this, he's made five straight quarterfinals here. It's definitely his sort of place. But the best part was that it was a high-quality match. It really came down to a few points, and El Aynaoui played them well. It's tough for Norman, who played well enough to beat almost anyone in the draw, but who got stuck facing the best player here. But even the loss has to be a confidence boost. Norman may never play at his 2000 level again, but at least he's turning into a real player again. For El Aynaoui, this still doesn't amount to much in the points department. It's only a quarterfinal, and at a low-level ATP event. He still needs to win at least two more matches to maintain his #17 ranking. But his chances don't look bad -- and he's improving his Race total. And, for once, it looks like he won't slide in the Race once more required events come on, because he's finally winning at the required events too. Last year, El Aynaoui was a race leader for much of the early part of the year and then slid badly. This year, he looks like he might be a contender to the end." In 2004, though, both guys have been injured. El Aynaoui has watched his ranking slide, and how much comeback does he have left? As for Norman, well, at this point even second round points sound good....

April 13: Casablanca - Final
Julien Boutter def. (1) Younes El Aynaoui 6-2 2-6 6-1
At the time, we said, "No, we don't believe it either. For that matter, Julien Boutter doesn't believe it himself: 'If you told me at the beginning of the week that I would finish by playing Younes El Aynaoui in the final, in front of the crowd, in a tough match, with good tactics that I played this week, I would not have believed it.' It wasn't really a great match in a technical sense; the wind was high and there were spatters of rain; both players talked about the conditions (El Aynaoui even said 'I had never seen it like that before'), and Boutter said that the court was in bad shape by the end. And while El Aynaoui denied that his four three-setters in the previous rounds had affected him, Boutter thought it did.... Great match or not, it's a pretty big deal for both players. For Boutter, of course, it's career title #1. Pretty good for a 29-year-old just barely back from a long injury. Especially on clay! If you'd asked us to bet where Boutter would win his first title, we'd certainly have said indoors, where his serve is most effective. But Boutter is smart (he has a college degree in applied mechanics), and he managed to adjust. Which El Aynaoui never did.... It comes at a good time for Boutter. The combination of a late-2002 slump and his injury had caused him to drop out of the Top 100 last week (down to #102). And he had semifinalist points here. He needed something good, and quickly. Obviously he managed it. This is going to move him up some 20 places -- which means he probably won't have to worry about Slam qualifying this year.... El Aynaoui now finds himself in the disturbing situation of not having won a title in the past year, even though he remains near the top of the ATP Race. This will cost him a couple of ranking spots, and he'll be tired going into Monte Carlo. He's been having a good year overall, but how much will this loss cost him?" For Boutter, sadly, this was the peak (or nearly) before the collapse. He would go on to reach the Monte Carlo quarterfinal. He hasn't won a match since. And El Aynaoui has been out since January of this year.

Five Years Ago: 1999 was, perhaps, the year that caused everyone's expectations of Nicolas Kiefer to rise a little too high. This week, he won .Tokyo, the first of his three titles in 1999. He would end the year at #6 -- but has never been above #20 in any other year of his career.

Ten Years Ago: Richard Krajicek won the only clay title of his career, winning Barcelona over Carlos Costa (who was having probably the best stretch of his career, having won a title the week before and backing it up with a final).

04-16-2004, 12:53 PM
I love these little look backs.

Thanks so much TBE. :kiss:

04-22-2004, 10:26 AM
April 14: Monte Carlo - First Round
Albert Portas (Q) def. Andy Roddick (3) 7-6(7-5) 6-3
At the time, we said, "And so the jinx continues. Andy Roddick can win the small ones. He can scare anybody. But the big tournament still elude him.... Albert Portas, in many ways, is a nightmare for Roddick. Or, at least, a template for a nightmare, if only he were a little better player. His game goes to all Roddick's weaknesses. Roddick has several holes in his game -- backhand and return of serve being the most obvious. But he also has a problem with movement, especially explosive movement, as his several ankle injuries attest. And Portas is the 'Drop Shot Dragon,' constantly blooping balls to all corners of the court. Roddick isn't all that happy at net anyway, and having to scramble there unexpectedly just makes it worse. Obviously he still held serve fairly well -- but not quite well enough. And that, in turn, means that Roger Federer may be safe at #5 in the rankings after all. Roddick came in at #6, and with a real chance to catch Federer. Not any more. That leaves only Albert Costa in the hunt, and he would have to win Monte Carlo.... Albert Portas came to everyone's attention a couple of years ago when he came from nowhere to win Hamburg. Since then, he's all but vanished again; even on clay last year, he was 6-14, and his entry ranking is down to #96. This will gain him about eight places. And probably help his confidence as well." A year later, Portas hasn't really moved much. As for Roddick -- well, you know what he's been up to.

April 15: Monte Carlo - First Round
Yevgeny Kafelnikov def. (11) Younes El Aynaoui 6-2 6-7(4-7) 6-1
At the time, we said, "Yevgeny Kafelnikov is doing everything upside-down this year. He was crummy on Rebound Ace. He was crummy in Davis Cup. And now he's winning on clay. Of course, the fact that Younes El Aynaoui played five three-setters last week helped. So does the fact that Kafelnikov had won all four of their previous meetings. Still, beating the Moroccan on clay is a pretty significant accomplishment. This is perhaps the first really good sign for Kafelnikov this year. He came to Monte Carlo a mere #29 in the ATP Race -- which may not sound that bad, but it must be remembered that Kafelnikov plays a heavy schedule, so his Race ranking is always inflated early in the year. Had he [played for the rest of 2003 the way he had played to this point], he would likely have ended up at #40 or so. But, suddenly, he's doing something he hasn't done in quite a while: He's looking very solid on clay. Last year, Kafelnikov didn't win his first match on clay until Rome, and ended the year with only two clay wins. In 2001 also, his first win was at Rome. But here he is, in the Monte Carlo second round, with three clay wins already. It's too early to say he's on his way back into the Top Ten -- but it's the first real improvement in his results in two years. By strange luck of the rankings, it doesn't appear this is going to hurt El Aynaoui's position. Indeed, it's quite likely that he will move up -- all the players around him (Canas, Haas, Sampras) are injured or not playing.... This win by itself won't put Kafelnikov into the Top 25; at best, he'll gain one spot (and that due to Tim Henman's fall, not his own rise). But suddenly his draw looks rather nice...." A year later, of course, it matters not at all, since Kafelnikov is retired. Monte Carlo would have represented a chance for Younes El Aynaoui -- but he has get healthy enough to play first.

April 16: Monte Carlo - Second Round
Magnus Norman (WC) def. (10) Gustavo Kuerten 1-6 7-5 6-2
At the time, we said, "We weren't supposed to be that correct. We said that Magnus Norman seemed finally to be getting back in form, but this is ridiculous.... Let's be clear. Magnus Norman used to be a very good clay player. In 1999 and 2000, he was Kuerten's chief rival on dirt; he won three clay titles in 1999, and two in 2000, and made the Roland Garros final in the latter year, and even beat Kuerten in the Rome final. If it hadn't been for his many injuries, he might have been out there battling Juan Carlos Ferrero for the title of 'best clay-courter' last year.... But that was before the various physical problems. Norman has literally not been himself for two years. By the time of the 2001 clay season, he was so hobbled that he lost first round at Roland Garros, and that effectively ended his year. He attempted a comeback in 2002, with very limited success until the end of the year -- whereupon he had another surgery. And, this time, he had to try a comeback without benefit of injury ranking. For the most part, it's been pretty ugly.... But over the last couple of weeks, things finally seem to have turned around. He didn't beat Younes El Aynaoui at Casablanca, but it was very, very close -- and that with the Moroccan crowd being its usual dreadful self to outsiders. And now he's outlasted Gustavo Kuerten. By the smallest of margins: Kuerten was up 6-1 5-2, then said he started trying to do too much.... There is a substantial payoff. Last year, Norman lost in the Monte Carlo first round -- to Thomas Johansson of all people. And he has very few good events on his record (Tokyo final, a couple of quarterfinals, some qualifying points). So this goes straight to his bottom line. Norman came in ranked #94. He should climb to #80 or a little above. And Norman finds himself in a quarter where all the seeds are gone. This could be the start of something big.... Kuerten, like Norman, had nothing on the line this week. He won't be moving up. But, with all the players below him out, he won't be moving down, either; his #15 ranking is secure -- and will probably stay that way over the coming weeks." Though the real problem may simply have been Kuerten's messed-up clay game. He shows signs of solving that (though he lost first round this year) -- but Norman, of course, was just playing himself back into shape when he hurt himself again.

April 17: Monte Carlo - Third Round
Julien Boutter (WC) def. (9) Sjeng Schalken 7-6(7-3) 6-4
At the time, we said, "It's starting to look like injury was the best thing that ever happened to Julien Boutter. Either that, or he's doing an Andre Agassi and cranking things up now that his twenty-ninth birthday has come and gone.... Boutter turned 29 on April 5. Prior to that time, he had no titles, one final, and one Masters Series quarterfinal (Hamburg 2002) in his career. Since then -- yes, in the week and a half since then -- he has one title (Casablanca), one Masters Series quarterfinal, and an eight match winning streak, obviously the longest of his career. The draw did help, of course; Sjeng Schalken is not exactly the top clay-courter on the Tour. The Dutchman probably wouldn't have gotten this far had it not been for a nice draw. But then, until the past two weeks, Boutter wasn't a great fan of clay either, having made his one previous final, and most of his other big results, indoors. His biggest weapon, after all, is his serve, and he likes to attack. Obviously he's attacking well enough now to win even on dirt. And he just keeps rising as a result. #82 coming in, he's very nearly doubled his point total in the past two weeks. He'll be around #70 next week. And in the Top Fifty in the Race, despite having only three events. He has almost nothing left to defend this year -- Munich quarterfinal, Rome qualifying second round, Hamburg quarterfinal, St. Poelten second round, Stuttgart second round, Madrid qualifying. If he can keep this up, or even just resume his pace of 2001, he could make a real mark in the second half of 2003." Well, that sets a record for lousy predictions, since Boutter didn't win another match in 2003, and eventually ended up unable to play.

April 20: Monte Carlo - Final
Juan Carlos Ferrero (1) def. Guillermo Coria 6-2 6-2
At the time, we said, "Being a great clay player has its drawbacks. Among them is the fact that the competition is so stiff. Case in point: Guillermo Coria. Make no mistake, this young fellow is good. In 2001, at just-barely-19, he won his first title at Vina del Mar. Later that spring, he made the Monte Carlo semifinal, and the Mallorca final, and hit the Top 25. Then -- pure bad luck made him face Gustavo Kuerten in the first round of Roland Garros. It was short and not very pretty. Kuerten was just too good. And then came injury, and drug suspension, and a long recovery.... It seems safe to say that Coria is back. But here it happened again: He made the final, with a stunning win over Carlos Moya in the semifinal -- and then ran into Juan Carlos Ferrero, and again, it wasn't pretty. Very un-pretty, in fact; Ferrero broke Coria in the Argentine's first two service games, then Coria got on the board by breaking Ferrero, but he made too many errors, and the result was the scoreline above. They wound up playing best-of-three because bad weather delayed the start of the match and threatened to return (and Coria said the conditions affected his game).... Last year, by any test except Roland Garros titles, Ferrero was the best clay player in the world. This year, he seems to be staking that claim again. By defending his title at Monte Carlo, he not only maintains his hold on the #3 ranking, but actually strengthens it; it's going to be much harder for Carlos Moya to gain the ranking in coming weeks. And, from #12 in the Race prior to this week, Ferrero now finds himself up to #3. And he could make #2 quite soon. Indeed, he has an outside shot at #1 by Roland Garros. Plus, with Andre Agassi having Rome to defend, he even has a slight (emphasize slight) chance at the #2 ranking this spring. Ferrero is only the third player to win back-to-back Monte Carlo titles in the past 30 years. The other two? Bjorn Borg and Thomas Muster. Pretty good clay company.... The week's big mover, though, is surely Coria. He came in at #26, with nothing much to defend. He's now up to a career-high #16 -- meaning no meetings with Kuerten in the first round of Roland Garros this year! And he's up to #7 in the Race. And he's still only a little over 21!" Of course, we know now what both these clay experts have done since. This year, they were seeded to meet in the final again -- not by chance, but because both are in the Top Four. But Ferrero is out now, and suddenly Coria is the big favorite here.

Five Years Ago: Gustavo Kuerten, to this point in his career, could be accused of being a One Whatever Wonder. He'd won Roland Garros, but had only two other small titles and was still trying to fix himself in the Top Ten. This was the week he erased all those doubts: He won Monte Carlo to earn the second big title of his career.

Ten Years Ago: 1994 was to be the biggest year of Alberto Berasategui's career; he won seven titles, as many as he would pick up in the rest of his career combined. All of them on clay, of course. This was the week he won the first of the seven, at Nice.

04-29-2004, 05:44 PM
April 21: Barcelona - First Round
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Werner Eschauer (Q) 0-6 6-4 6-3
At the time, we said, "This was the sort of match to drive you crazy.... It's expected that players coming back from injury will have a rather tough time. And it's usually worse for youngsters like Paul-Henri Mathieu, who don't have experience in recovering their form. (He said after the match that no one understands how hard it is to come back after injury.) And Mathieu last year seemed to show a preference for faster surfaces anyway. But he wasn't out that long! Plus this was his fourth tournament back, so he'd had time to work back into form. Losing an opening set in a bagel is rather scary. The more so since Werner Eschauer is not exactly Juan Carlos Ferrero out there. He turns 29 this week, but has never threatened the Top 100. He had no ATP matches so far this year. Last year, he didn't make a single ATP main draw.... This should have been Mathieu's breakthrough chance. He came close to missing it. Afterward, Mathieu admitted that it was big: 'I am so happy. It's just one match, but I feel like I have just won a tournament. It has been such a long time since I won a match. The last time was in Lyon when I won the tournament.' Last year, Mathieu qualified here, which means that he's almost exactly replaced his points. It's not especially likely that he will move in the rankings -- unless he starts playing better than this, anyway. But by winning, he stopped Eschauer from moving to around #110, and perhaps a career ranking high." It didn't prove much of a turnaround for Mathieu, though; he still hasn't rediscovered his 2002 form, and hasn't played much lately.

April 22: Barcelona - Second Round
David Sanchez def. (5) Paradorn Srichaphan 6-0 6-2
At the time, we said, "How is a guy to get any better on clay when he never lasts long enough to get any experience on it? ... There are a lot of Americans who don't understand clay very well. But at least they can travel to Florida or elsewhere on the east coast and pick up some green clay experience. Imagine what it's like for Paradorn Srichaphan, from Thailand. Until he started touring, he probably thought clay actually meant, well, clay. Hydrous aluminum silicates. Certainly the stuff has never been kind to him. In 2000, he managed a 2-2 record -- but the two wins came at Orlando, a rather weak green clay event, over players at the very ends of their careers. In 2001, he went 1-5, with the one win being in Roland Garros qualifying; he didn't win a main draw match. Last year, he was 3-7, and two of the wins were over injured players and one was against a pure fastcourter. And last week, Srichaphan won his opening match at Monte Carlo. Which means he's already close to using up his clay win supply for 2003. After the match, Srichaphan confessed, 'I need to learn how to move better on clay. It's all about the movement. I feel I can still hit the ball well, but I am not moving well enough to make the point. I also have to work on my shot selection.' David Sanchez, by contrast, loves clay, with a title on the stuff already this year, and he's a Spaniard to boot.... The effect on the rankings will of course be slight. Srichaphan wasn't defending anything, and for Sanchez, it's just first round points." A year later, there really isn't much to add; Srichaphan and clay still don't seem to mix.

April 23: Barcelona - Second Round
Nikolay Davydenko def. (6) David Nalbandian 6-3 7-6(7-4)
At the time, we said, "Who would have thought that, at 21, David Nalbandian would be washed up? ... No, don't write to us; we don't mean it. But Nalbandian really does have an air of yesterday's news about him. He hasn't really made us sit up and take notice for, oh, six months now.... It seems that Nalbandian was not at his best; he later withdrew from his doubles match. There was no official explanation given, though. The match reverses the result of a Davis Cup meeting of three weeks ago -- but, of course, Davydenko was just coming back from injury then. Other than helping Argentina to a Davis Cup blowout, it hasn't been a particularly great year for Nalbandian, who is still looking for his first title this year.... Nikolay Davydenko, on the other hand, is at two and counting. It's true that he's older than Nalbandian by half a year, but he didn't really start to make a dent until this spring, and since then, he's been as hot as they come. This despite the wrist injury that cost him several weeks. That, combined with relatively weaker results at the required events, explains why he isn't at the top of the Race. But he's working on it. He does lead all other Russians in the Race, and he's likely to improve that lead. And one of the players he'll be passing is none other than Nalbandian, who came in at #20 in the Race (to Davydenko's #21), and this will drop him out of the Top 20. It also represents another chance come and gone for Nalbandian to return to the Top Ten. The Argentine had third round points to defend here, and while that is small loss, he also was the only clay-tolerant player with a shot at the Top 10. Instead, he takes an opening-round loss.... It's going to be interesting to see where he ends up once Wimbledon comes off." This was, perhaps, a turning point for both players. Davydenko didn't do much for the rest of the year. Nalbandian, it's true, didn't win a title in 2003 -- but he played very well for the rest of the year, and has clearly established himself as a solid Top Ten player -- if he can stay healthy. That's proved to be a rather big if.

April 24: Barcelona - Third Round
(16) Agustin Calleri def. (3) Albert Costa 6-4 6-2
At the time, we said, "There are depths to Agustin Calleri that no one ever suspected.... Calleri is 26 years old, which is getting rather late even for late bloomer status. But his career is definitely in full flower this year. He picked up a big title already this spring, and he's in the Top 50 for the first time in his career, and he's threatening the top Ten in the ATP Race. And now he's knocked off the defending Roland Garros champion. On clay. Easily. And it looks like he'll be reaching another career high. Indeed, at this rate, he may be Top 30 soon. Possibly even by this weekend. Calleri doesn't seem to have any particular explanation, except solid play. We'll second that. This is likely to, dare we say, cost Costa. He himself admitted that 'I don't think I have made the full transition from hard courts to clay yet......I am not finding my rhythm on clay yet. I am missing the keys of the clay court game. The shots are good, but the concept isn't.' He was last year's finalist, and with Marat Safin doing so well, that raises a real possibility that Costa will fall to #8. And, with the clay season well underway, the Spaniard isn't even Top 20 in the Race. Roland Garros is starting to look more and more ominous for the defending champion...." Calleri, of course, went on to reach the Top 20, and is still close to that level, though he has a lot to defend in the near future. As for Costa, if he doesn't do better on clay this year than last, he may be out of the Top 40 soon.

April 27: Houston - Final
Andre Agassi (1) def. Andy Roddick (2) 3-6 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "One way or the other, it would be historic: Either Andy Roddick would win Houston title #3, or Andre Agassi would take the #1 ranking with a bullet.... Really, the biggest news had been in the semifinal, when Agassi had beaten Jurgen Melzer. That made Agassi #1 in the world (in the Entry rankings, of course; he was already #1 in the Race). That also made him the oldest #1 of all time. But Agassi came into this final with only one loss this year; he's trying for more than just the #1 ranking (which he's likely to lose at Rome anyway). The two certainly put on a show. But Agassi, who is now 23-1 this year, was not to be denied, turning things around at 3-6 0-2 and triple break point on his serve. He ended Roddick's Houston winning streak at 14. He also picked up this title fifteen years after winning it the first time." The irony is that Agassi, having made history with this title, hasn't won one since, and has slipped all the way to #6 this week, and didn't even try to come back to defend. Roddick lost the title last year (and this), but he's been #1 more recently than Agassi. What this says about the future -- well, we'll know probably within a year.

Five Years Ago: Few people have had such career skyrockets as Franco Squillari. At the end of 1998, he was 23 years old, still trying to make the Top 50, and had no titles. By the end of 2000, he was #14 in the world, with three career titles and a Roland Garros semifinal; by the end of 2001, he was back to #55, and he's fallen since. This week, he started that big-but-brief climb, winning his first career title at Munich.

Ten Years Ago: Another clay season, another Andrei Medvedev "why-didn't-someone-kick-him-where-it-would-do-some-good" story. At 19, he won his first Masters Series (as we'd now call it), beating Sergi Bruguera in the Monte Carlo final. It was the seventh title of Medvedev's career; he'd win his second Masters a few weeks later at Hamburg. In the minor footnotes department, Jeremy Bates also won the only title of his career this week, beating Joern Renzenbrink in the final of Seoul.

04-29-2004, 06:54 PM
Thanks again, TBE.

05-14-2004, 01:19 PM
May 12: Hamburg - First Round
Olivier Rochus def Younes El Aynaoui 7-6(9-7) 6-4
At the time, we said, "It's looking like the old Younes El Aynaoui is back. The one who can't seem to win at required events.... It really did seem that El Aynaoui had reached a new level this year, given his results at the Australian Open and other events. No longer was he cleaning up at the smaller events and not carrying it into the big ones. But now -- well, Olivier Rochus is a good, steady opponent, but he has no weapons at all. El Aynaoui has just as much variety of shot, serves better, and moves pretty well for a guy his size. And he really likes clay -- arguably better than Rochus, who has spent a lot of his life on indoor surfaces. But, this time, the Moroccan made a few mistakes too many. That means he won't be returning to the Top 20 this week, and it opens a very slight possibility that he will fail of the #24 seed at Roland Garros. We repeat, the chance is very slight -- but it exists. As for Rochus, he won't be seeded at any Slams in the near future. But he was defending qualifying points, and this result will more than cover what he was defending. It may not move him up (he came in at #65, but 22 points behind #64 Raemon Sluiter). But at least he shouldn't lose any ground." A year later, El Aynaoui would of course have a big opportunity here -- but he still can't play.

May 6: Hamburg - First Round
Rainer Schuettler (9) def. David Ferrer 7-5 6-1
At the time, we said, "Rainer Schuettler may finally have done it. This may be the win that puts him in the Top Ten. It's not guaranteed yet. As of right now, Schuettler is in line for the #9 ranking, but David Nalbandian is still within reach of him, and several others could overtake him with very good results here. But, with Jiri Novak down, and Sjeng Schalken and Marat Safin not playing, we'd put Schuettler's odds at at least 75%.... And he did it the hard way, too. We've heard people questioning whether David Ferrer's win over Andre Agassi last week was real (that is, they thought Agassi wasn't trying). That seems nuts to us -- but even if you ignore that, remember that Ferrer last year made the final at Umag (beating Nalbandian and Coria among others) and won Bucharest (though he didn't beat such big names there). He is a tough clay player -- and Schuettler beat him five and one.... The crowd probably helped. Schuettler, who is now the highest-ranked male or female German by a large margin (and the #2, Tommy Haas, is hurt), commented 'The stadium was almost sold out, and that on a Tuesday afternoon. Many thanks to all the spectators....' It's a rather tough loss for Ferrer. Last year, he was playing and winning the Valencia Challenger. And he's in a part of the rankings where the players are bunched pretty thick. It's not clear just where he'll end up (after all, there are other guys around his ranking playing Challengers this week), but we suspect he'll drop at least five spots from his current #61." The trick now for Schuettler is to start defending points; he's seen a lot of good results evaporate already this year. This week, in fact, is the week it finally started coming home; he'll lose two ranking spots, and he's back to losing again.

May 14: Hamburg - Second Round
Rafael Nadal (Q) def. Carlos Moya (2) 7-5 6-4
At the time, we said, "Carlos Moya has admitted to helping out Rafael Nadal, who like Moya is from Mallorca. We didn't think he'd go this far. On the other hand, Moya has forecast that Nadal will be Top Ten. In that regard, Moya is making himself look good.... As is Nadal, who came back from a break down in both the first and second sets. Though Moya helped; both players talked about his play. Nadal commented that Moya "was very nervous and was not at his best...." Moya was more fatalistic: "I'm not disappointed that I lost to him, I'm disappointed about the way I played today. I know it's not going to be the last time I lose against him. But I'm not happy at all the way I played. It happens every year in Hamburg, I'm not able to play well here and I don't know the reason." In the short term, this has no effect on Moya's ranking; he was #4 whether he won Hamburg or lost first round. But it does mean that the big fancy four-way contest for the #1 ranking at Roland Garros is now only a two-man contest. Juan Carlos Ferrero fell out of it when he got hurt at Rome. Now Moya is out too; for the rest of the summer (at least) it will be Hewitt vs. Agassi.... Nadal, of course, continues to climb like a rocket. When the Australian Open ended, he was #203. He hit the Top 100 just a month ago. He came to Hamburg ranked #87. This win will move him to about #75." A year later, Nadal has certainly shown that this was no fluke, but he's hurt, and will be falling badly as these points come off. As for Moya, it's rather funny to recall him complaining about how he plays at Hamburg. Last week, he was complaining about Rome -- and then he won! An omen? We note that Moya is through to the third round....

May 15: Hamburg - Third Round
Fernando Gonzalez (15) d. Lleyton Hewitt (1) 6-1 3-6 6-0
At the time, we said, "There is, perhaps, some sort of moral in here about practice and experience. Lleyton Hewitt's biggest weapons are speed and steadiness -- perfect attributes for clay. Fernando Gonzalez gets most of his points with big power -- a perfect weapon for hardcourts, but he refers clay.... And so [Hewitt is] out of Hamburg with a relatively small number of points, and still so far back in the Race that, if the season ended right now, he wouldn't even make the Masters Cup! Which gives us an interesting situation as we analyze the next couple of months." We went on to demonstrate that Hewitt could lose the #1 ranking at Wimbledon even if he defended his title. And, of course, Hewitt did fall below #1 in the course of 2003, and didn't make the Masters Cup, and now is struggling to get back into the Top 15. This loss didn't cause it -- but it didn't help, either. And it was a major reason that, coming into Hamburg, Gonzalez was actually ranked above Hewitt.

May 18: Hamburg - Final
Guillermo Coria (12) def. Agustin Calleri 6-3 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "Suddenly Juan Carlos Ferrero is facing competition for the title of 'Best Clay Player.' It's an interesting question, really. Ferrero won Monte Carlo and Valencia. But Coria made the Monte Carlo final and now has the Hamburg title. If there is anything between them, it's that Ferrero beat Coria at Monte Carlo. But we note that Coria is still only 21 and improving -- fast. It seemed as though he said 'it was my best tennis ever' after every round at Hamburg. Certainly each round brought him his best ranking ever. Making the final put him in the Top Ten. Winning put him all the way at #7 (zooming up from #16 at the start of the week).... In addition to being #7 in the rankings, Coria is now up to #5 in the Race. Presumably his results will fall off, at least a little, on hardcourts. But he's staking a pretty good claim for his first year-end championships.... Even Calleri has a shot, though his odds don't look nearly as good. He's #7 in the Race, but his ranking is a lot lower -- tied in points with Yevgeny Kafelnikov for #18/#19. Still, it's a career high for him, too." Coria, of course, went on to even better things after this -- and, right now, we'd have to rate him a better clay player than Ferrero (if for no other reason than that he can actually get out there and play once in a while). Calleri has generally stayed in the #16-#24 range since, but of course he couldn't defend and will be falling hard.

Five Years Ago: Gustavo Kuerten won Rome to give him his second Masters Series of the year. It also gave him a big boost in the rankings, of course; he would go from #23 to #5 in the course of the year. But it's perhaps more interesting to note the player he beat: Patrick Rafter. Rafter, in his entire career, had only two other wins at clay Masters.

Ten Years Ago: Speaking of guys who had trouble on clay -- this was the week Pete Sampras won Rome for his only clay Masters -- a result that has been causing arguments about his clay abilities ever since.

06-03-2004, 11:46 AM
May 27: Roland Garros - First Round
Sargis Sargsian def. Andy Roddick (6) 6-7(3-7) 6-1 6-2 6-4
Our lead story, on this day a year ago, began, "Last year, when Roger Federer lost in the first round of Roland Garros, he forced us into awarding him Match of the Day status. He's not getting us again! Even though he did it again on Monday. Just as Federer lost easily last year to Hicham Arazi, he went out this year and looked silly against Luis Horna." So we talked about this match instead: "Here we go again.... Last year, there was a reason, of sorts, why Andy Roddick lost at Roland Garros: Wayne Arthurs could serve with him, and probably has better stamina. Sargis Sargsian -- well, he has the stamina, but on an ordinary day, he couldn't serve with Roddick.... This clearly wasn't an ordinary day, as Sargsian had more aces than the American. What Roddick had, mostly, was temper tantrums. He played well enough in the first set, but then came unglued, throwing his racquet and getting broken regularly. And every time it seemed like he would get it together, he'd come unglued again.... What this means, ironically, that not much changes. Federer and Roddick were the only guys with realistic chances to pass Juan Carlos Ferrero or Carlos Moya. With both out, we know that four of the top five will be Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Ferrero, and Moya. Federer is likely to remain #5, though Guillermo Coria or David Nalbandian could perhaps sneak into that spot.... Roddick is in rather more danger; if Coria can make the semifinal, Roddick will fall from #6 to #7. But he'll certainly stay Top Ten. In the entry rankings, that is. It's almost certain to boot him out of the Top Ten in the Race. And he really would like to make the year-end championships. That, after all, won't be on clay...." Obviously Roddick got his wish. But clay has bothered him again this year.

May 28: Roland Garros - Second Round
Flavio Saretta def. Yevgeny Kafelnikov (17) 6-4 3-6 6-0 6-7(0-7) 6-4
At the time, we said, "Reality had to return to Yevgeny Kafelnikov one of these days.... Kafelnikov seems to make almost a career of getting people to mis-estimate him on clay. After he won Roland Garros, everyone insisted he was a great [clay] player -- even though he never won another clay tournament; he hasn't even had a clay final since 1996. Lately, people seem at least to be accepting that -- so what has he done this year? Nothing except post his best clay results in years. It seemed like this would be the Roland Garros where he could at last do some real damage again.... The good news is, he lost in the second round last year also, and so this won't cost him anything, points-wise. The real question now is, will enough players lose to let him be in the Top 16 for Wimbledon? ... It's going to be a close thing -- assuming no Wimbledon withdrawals." A year later, with Kafelnikov retired, none of it really matters -- except that this was rather a sorry way to bid farewell to the first Slam he ever won.

May 29: Roland Garros - Second Round
Nicolas Coutelot def. David Nalbandian (8) 6-3 6-3 4-6 2-6 6-1
At the time, we said, "And now, the casualties get serious. David Nalbandian isn't the highest seed to lose at Roland Garros -- but he's the top clay guy to go out so far.... Let's be honest: We can't make heads or tails out of Nalbandian. His collection of titles, and his Wimbledon final, imply great talent. Then he produces clunkers like this. Yes, some of it is that he lost steam at the end -- but if he hadn't lost the first two sets, he wouldn't have had to play five! It's not yet clear how this will affect Nalbandian's ranking. He came in at #8, and as of right now, he's still there. several other players could still pass him. It appears that Nalbandian should stay Top Ten -- but it may be just barely. And that's with Wimbledon coming up. His finalist points there represent about 40% of his current total. If he has another bad day, he could end up ranked around #20. For Coutelot, ranked #208, this is of course a very big result. He's so far down the French depth chart that he had to qualify. He doesn't get bonus points, but he had only second round points to defend. That means he adds 55 Entry points, increasing his total by exactly a third. That should move him to about #160. Which at least represents a higher level of qualifying...." A year later, Nalbandian is still Top Ten (and one win away from the Top Five) even without a Wimbledon final, though he's also without a title; as for Coutelot, he remains mostly invisible.

June 1: Roland Garros - Third Round DOUBLES
[B]Etlis/Rodriguez (16) def. Knowles/Nestor (1) 1-6 6-3 6-3
At the time, we said, "I can hear the cry now. Doubles? Men's doubles? What are you doing talking about men's doubles when Andre Agassi was playing? Answer: We're talking about the #1 ranking. This loss meant that Mark Knowles would lose it. And when Bhupathi and Mirnyi won their match, it guaranteed that Max Mirnyi, and not Mike Bryan, would be the new #1.... Which is doubly significant because Mirnyi, as well as being a fine doubles player, is a significant singles player. Of the Top Ten in doubles (Knowles, Nestor, Mirnyi, Bhupathi, Mike Bryan, Bob Bryan, Woodbridge, Bjorkman, Santoro, Rikl), only Mirnyi, Bjorkman, and Santoro are still really active in singles, and only Mirnyi is a top player. And now he's #1 in doubles, too." He would keep that top ranking for quite a while, but of course he's lost it since. But we're going to have another free-for-all this year; as of today, there are still four different men (on three different teams) with the possibility of being #1 when this is over.

June 2: Roland Garros - Fourth Round
Tommy Robredo (28) def. Gustavo Kuerten (15) 6-4 1-6 7-6(7-2) 6-4
At the time, we said, "We have heard people say that Tommy Robredo is an underachiever. They seem to forget that Robredo is only a month past his twenty-first birthday. He has plenty of time to improve.... Though, at the rate he's going, he won't need much time. At this Roland Garros, he's been improving by the match. Sometimes by the game. As witness the third set. He had set points, and blew them, only to take charge in the tiebreak. Again, in the fourth, he had match points on Kuerten's serve, and blew them -- and then held to reach his first Slam quarterfinal. That still doesn't put Robredo in the Top 20 -- quite. He's at #21 in the rankings (up from #31), which brings him almost up to his career high he set earlier this year.... You have to wonder what's going on with Kuerten, though. This seemed to be the tournament where he finally was getting it all together. He seems to be healthy. All his shots seem to be there. But -- they weren't working, somehow. This is not the Guga who won three titles here." A year later, Kuerten has finally won a clay title, but his hip is bad again. As for Robredo, he's stayed at or near #20 ever since this tournament, so he's obviously stayed close to the level he showed here. Whether he can take another step -- we can't say.

June 3: Roland Garros - Quarterfinal
Guillermo Coria (7) def. Andre Agassi (2) 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4
At the time, we said, "It was a day of 'won'ts.' Carlos Moya won't win his second Roland Garros. Neither will Andre Agassi. We won't see Agassi moving up the rankings, either. But the biggest 'won't' was what Guillermo Coria's play told Andre Agassi: 'I won't clutch up, and I won't stop running.' Coria should have been tired after his Round of Sixteen match. And Andre Agassi should have been able to run him around. Should have -- but didn't.... For Agassi, this means that he once again won't be making #1. It also means that Lleyton Hewitt is pretty much safe going into Wimbledon. Had Agassi made the semifinal, Hewitt would have needed to defend Queen's. As it is, he should be all right at least for the next two weeks. And Agassi's top spot in the Race is also under threat. And the threatener is none other than Coria. The Argentine is now up to #2 in the Race (at least until Juan Carlos Ferrero plays his quarterfinal), and if he wins Roland Garros, he takes the top spot from Agassi. His move in the rankings is naturally not as dramatic. But he's now up to a high of #6 (dropping Andy Roddick to #7). If he can make the final, he's #5. And he's now up to eleven straight wins on clay. Who's to say he can't make the final? Right now, other than Juan Carlos Ferrero, he is clearly the best clay-courter in the world -- and he and Ferrero are on opposite sides of the draw." A year later, the only change we have to make in that assessment is that Coria is clearly the best clay-courter with no qualifications whatsoever.

June 4: Roland Garros - Quarterfinal
Albert Costa (9) def. Tommy Robredo (28) 2-6 3-6 6-4 7-5 6-2
At the time, we said, "Albert Costa is proving harder to kill than Rasputin.... The Russian mystic, you may recall, was poisoned, beaten, and stabbed before his murderers finally threw him in the river to drown.... Albert Costa doesn't have anyone coming after him with blunt instruments, but he won't die no matter how much his opponents try to bury him. Coming into this quarterfinal, he had already played three five-set matches. He had twice come back from two sets down. And so what happened? He did it again.... It took Costa quite a while to get into the match. And even once he did, Robredo made one more attempt to bury him in the fourth, getting up a break. But Costa managed again to break back. And when it came down to a fitness contest, Costa had the edge; it was Robredo who was getting his legs worked on at the end. And so Costa extended his winning streak here to eleven. We would never have believed it after the first round. Or the second. Or the third. Talk about not giving up! And his brave stand is producing rewards. He came to Roland Garros in the Top Ten, but would have fallen out of the Top 30 had he lost early. This win assures that he will stay in the Top 20. And, after this, is anyone going to say that he absolutely can't keep going?" The downside is, here he was at Roland Garros again with everything on the line....

June 5: Roland Garros - Semifinal DOUBLES
Haarhuis/Kafelnikov (11) def. Arthurs/Hanley (10) 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "Some things we just can't explain. Like Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Roland Garros.... Kafelnikov, since winning his singles title here seven years ago, has been fairly inept on clay in singles. And yet -- he's won three doubles titles here (1996 and 1997 with Vacek, and last year with Haarhuis). And now he's in another final. And doing it with Haarhuis just makes it stranger. Don't mistake us; Haarhuis is a great doubles player (greater than Kafelnikov, by the numbers). But he's also semi-retired. And yet, he comes out and just keeps winning at Roland Garros." We asked, at the time, "Who's going to bet against them now?" The answer is, the smart money; they did lose. But it was still quite a showing for a team with a combined age of 66. Both retired now, of course -- and, ironically, it was Kafelnikov who went first.

June 8: Roland Garros - Final
Juan Carlos Ferrero (3) def. Martin Verkerk 6-1 6-3 6-2
At the time, we said, "Juan Carlos Ferrero, be very, very afraid. It's all downhill from here.... Ferrero, as of right now, has an almost incomprehensible accomplishment on his record: He's played Roland Garros four times, never lost before the semifinal, and never done worse from one year to the next. That streak cannot possibly continue.... Oh, it's likely that Ferrero will win more French Open titles. He's only 23, he's the best active clay player, and he'll never again be as nervous as he must have been in this final. But can he ever expect to win this easily again? It really wasn't much of a final -- in some ways, worse than the women's final (note that, in each case, the winner averaged two games lost per set).... In terms of rankings, this meant very little. Ferrero was already #3, and this didn't move him any higher -- though he's #1 in the ATP Race, by a wide margin; his 507 points plus a Slam means that he is assured a spot at the Masters Cup even if he doesn't play again this year. As for Verkerk, he's obviously at a career high -- #15, no less. And with Wimbledon beckoning. He's up to #8 in the Race; even he might have a shot at the Masters Cup himself. In any case, he's done with Challengers for a long time to come." Ferrero eventually would manage to convert this (plus other results, of course) into a #1 ranking. But it's never been the same since. These days, he isn't even really the top clay-courter in the world. As for Verkerk -- well, we all know that he didn't manage to do much to follow this up. Will he be able to do better now that he's back to a more normal ranking?

Five Years Ago: This was the year Andre Agassi finally did it: After blowing two French Open finals in his youth, he came from two sets down against Andre Medvedev to win his first Roland Garros title -- and become the only man to win all four Slams in the four surface era.

Ten Years Ago: It was the end of a rather short era. Sergi Bruguera won his second straight Roland Garros title, beating Alberto Berasategui in four sets, and would hit a career high of #3 a couple of months later -- and would never win another title after 1994. From Monte Carlo 1993 to Prague 1994, he was a dominant clay figure (eight titles, seven of them on dirt), and then -- nothing.

06-03-2004, 12:18 PM
Thanks :bigwave:

Chloe le Bopper
06-03-2004, 12:22 PM
From Monte Carlo 1993 to Prague 1994, he was a dominant clay figure (eight titles, seven of them on dirt), and then -- nothing.

That's... interesting. Hey Coria haters, maybe there is hope afterall ;)

07-07-2004, 02:13 AM
June 23: Wimbledon - First Round
Ivo Karlovic (Q) def. Lleyton Hewitt (1) 1-6 7-6(7-5) 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "Obviously the stat people's eyes are popping. It's not just that Lleyton Hewitt lost -- though he becomes the first defending champion in the open era to lose his opener the next year.... It's that he lost to Ivo Karlovic. That's #203 Ivo Karlovic. Karlovic, who has three ATP Race points this year. Karlovic, who last year had one (count it) ATP win, at Chennai over Marin. Even in qualifying, his 2002 record was 11-9.... In fairness, Karlovic has a big, big serve (he's a big, big guy), and grass was looking like his best surface even before this. At Surbiton, he made the semifinal with a win over Sluiter, and at Queen's, he qualified and beat Justin Gimelstob before losing to Xavier Malisse. And of those eleven qualifying wins he had in 2002, four were on grass.... If ever he were going to have a breakthrough, grass was the place for it.... And he had some help from Hewitt..... The #1 seed took Karlovic apart in the first set, which lasted all of nineteen minutes. Hardly surprising: There he was, in his first Slam, and he's shoved on centre court against the #1 seed. The nerves were showing, and Hewitt made him pay. And that, perhaps, let him lift his game. While Hewitt turned a bit sloppy -- as if he were still playing the inept Karlovic of the first set. Hewitt had a set point in the second set -- which, given Karlovic's lack of experience in five set matches, would probably have been it. But Karlovic saved it, and then won the set in the tiebreak. And when the chips were really down, at 4-4 in the fourth set, Karlovic didn't stumble, instead breaking Hewitt. He served for the match, and held easily, getting a service winner on a second serve on match point. Karlovic obviously will be moving well above #203 next week! This increases his point total by more than a quarter; he'll be rising to at around #160. But the big blow is to Hewitt, who came in bare points behind Andre Agassi in the contest for #1 but who of course had winner's points to defend. This instantly drops him to #3 behind Agassi and Juan Carlos Ferrero.... But the real blow is to his long-term prospects. Hewitt came in a mere #12 in the ATP Race. He'll probably fall to about #14..... It's the first time since he won the U. S. Open in 2001 that he hasn't been a slam-holder. People have been speculating that he won't even make the year-end championships. That just became a much bigger possibility." Indeed, it became a reality, though the good news is, Wimbledon is all opportunity for him this year. As for Karlovic -- well, he still doesn't have much going for him except a serve, but with a serve like his, it almost doesn't matter; he did even better this year than last.

June 24: Wimbledon - First Round
Cyril Saulnier (Q) def. Xavier Malisse (14) 6-4 6-3 6-2
At the time, we said, "There really wasn't much to say about this match except 'ouch.' Xavier Malisse had one of those days you just want to forget. At least it didn't last long, so the spectators got to go see something else. But, bad as it was, it's a very significant outcome, because Malisse last year had a run almost as spectacularly good as his 2003 Wimbledon was spectacularly bad. He had perhaps the best six weeks of his career, reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros, the third at Queen's -- and then making the Wimbledon semifinal with wins over Kafelnikov, Rusedski, and Krajicek. (Which obviously explains why he was promoted so high by the Wimbledon seeding formula.) Malisse came here this year ranked #31 -- but over 40% of his points came at Wimbledon 2002. He'll be falling to somewhere between #55 and #60. Which is right about where he was in the Race when all this started (#58).... Saulnier is your standard journeyman: almost 28 years old, he had never won a Wimbledon main draw match before (though he has a fair number of qualifying wins). He came in ranked #124, with qualifying points to defend. Because there are no bonus points for this win, he'll rise only about half a dozen places. That's still surprisingly close to a career high." Malisse really never recovered from this loss, either, having spent most of the time since below #50. But he did have a final earlier this year, and did some damage at Wimbledon before hurting himself; maybe he's finally breaking out of it.

June 25: Wimbledon - Second Round
Todd Martin def. Gustavo Kuerten (17) 7-6(7-4) 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "It was, depending on how you look at it, a classic or a throwback. Todd Martin, serving and volleying and trying to grab charge of points. Gustavo Kuerten, sitting at the baseline, serving well but not following it up, and generally looking like a very shaggy dolphin out of water. It was, in one sense, closer than the score; Martin certainly wasn't jumping all over Kuerten. But he never looked in any danger, either.... The minor irony in this is, the loss does Kuerten almost as much good (at least in terms of points gained) as the win does Martin. Kuerten, after all, didn't play Wimbledon last year. So even his one match win (or, correctly, his half-a-match win, since he won his first round by walkover) is free points for him; he came in ranked #13 and may even gain a spot or two.... Martin last year reached the second round of Wimbledon before losing to Arnaud Clement. It was a good time to pick up some points; he fell out of the Top 100 two weeks ago and came here ranked #102. (An artificially low ranking, to be sure; a big part of his problem is his limited schedule. His per-tournament results are a lot better.) This win will move him up to about #95. Of course, that still means having to play qualifying for the Masters Series and even some strong optional events. It's hard to imagine Martin wanting to do that at his age." And, indeed, he hasn't played much qualifying, and is holding to a limited schedule. Still, he's ranked several dozen places higher than he was last year, so it seems to be working reasonably well.

June 26: Wimbledon - Second Round
David Nalbandian (6) def. Andre Sa 6-2 7-5 6-2
At the time, we said, "Routine, right? Well, yes, it was routine. Downright dull, in fact. Andre Sa is having a dreadful year, and it just got dreadfuller. How dreadful? Sa entered Wimbledon with 15 Race points. That's in what are listed as fourteen events. In other words, he's dead in the water. Until today, though, he at least had one good result still on his record: The Wimbledon quarterfinal. That represented, almost exactly, half Sa's remaining points; he came here ranked #84, with 501 points. The 2002 Wimbledon quarterfinal was 250 points. Sa got 35 points for winning his first round. Still, this loss causes 43% of Sa's points to evaporate. From #84 he'll fall to probably a bit below #130. A tough loss indeed. (And, to make matters worse, most of his other remaining points come in the next month: Quarterfinal at Amersfoort and third round at Kitzbuhel.) And it doesn't do Nalbandian all that much good. Win or lose, he was going to be #22 (and unlikely to fall below that). Of course, each additional win from now on helps a great deal. If he can win one more, he'll probably stay Top 20." It never got better for Sa; he came into this week without an ATP main draw match this year. As for Nalbandian, he would lose a lot of ground after Wimbledon 2003, regain it -- and then hurt himself yet again; he didn't play this year. It's almost scary to think where the guy might be if he could just stay healthy.

June 29: Wimbledon - Third Round
Juan Carlos Ferrero (3) def. Sargis Sargsian 6-4 6-4 2-6 6-4
At the time, we said, "Juan Carlos Ferrero isn't going to make Andre Agassi's life easy.... This is one of those matches there really isn't much need to talk about[; Ferrero simply outplayed Sargsian]. Which is important, because Ferrero -- unlike a lot of Spaniards -- did not, when he hit that dodgy patch [in the third set], say to himself, 'Oops, this is grass,' and proceed to collapse. He pulled himself together and went on. And that could be very big in the race for #1. Ferrero has had good results on surfaces other than clay; he has hardcourt titles (if not on the scale of his clay titles), and he's made the final of the Masters Cup indoors. And he came to Wimbledon leading Andre Agassi in the Race. Can Ferrero make #1 here? Yes, he can -- if he can beat Agassi in their semifinal. Or he could make #1 later this year; after all, Agassi has Los Angeles and the U. S. Open final to defend; Ferrero has no titles to defend until Hong Kong, and only third round points at the U. S. Open (he does have the Cincinnati semifinal, and also a final at Kitzbuhel -- but that's an optional event). We'd still say that Agassi has the advantage. But it's getting to be a rather small advantage, and Ferrero seems to be doing his best to chip away at it further." Ferrero, of course, would make #1 -- on the strength of a U. S. Open final. But, this year, he's been having a terrible time; it will likely take him until next year's clay season to fully recover in the rankings. And that's if he ever gets healthy again.

June 30: Wimbledon - Fourth Round
Mark Philippoussis def. Andre Agassi (2) 6-3 2-6 6-7(4-7) 6-3 6-4
We really had two Matches of the Day on this day; in one, Tim Henman beat David Nalbandian (who fell out of the Top Ten as a result). But this one at the very least was more interesting; at the time, we said, "With the match only half over, we already had the lead written, at least mentally: 'When Mark Philippoussis looks back on this match in his nightmares, they'll all be about the third game of the third set: Seven break point chances, zero conversions.' But if anyone will be looking back on this match in nightmares, it will be Andre Agassi. He was just sloppy enough in the first to lose it (Philippoussis needed five tries to get his one break in that set also). He looked like himself in the second. But in the third, even though he won, a little of the zip seemed to be out of him. He played a great tiebreak -- but perhaps it shouldn't have come to a tiebreak. And from then on, it was just Philippoussis Firepower. He hit 46 aces (equalling the second-highest total ever recorded here), including twelve in the fourth set alone and eleven in the fifth, and put 64% of his first serves in. It's too soon to know what this will mean for next week's rankings, since Juan Carlos Ferrero's match with Sebastien Grosjean was suspended. But in the medium/long term, this is big news for Ferrero. Agassi will not be eating into Ferrero's lead in the Race. Ferrero hasn't made it to #1 yet, and won't even if he comes from behind to beat Grosjean. But this result by Agassi puts Ferrero in a very good position. He has to defend the Kitzbuhel final, but then it's Agassi's turn at Los Angeles. And, of course, Agassi has the U. S. Open final to defend. Agassi still has the edge (unless Ferrero turns things around here), simply because the rest of the year will be played on Agassi surfaces. But his advantage just got a lot smaller. For Philippoussis, this won't quite put him back in the Top 40. But he's getting close. And he faces Alexander Popp next. It's starting to look like he may finally be getting back to where he belongs." As we noted above, Ferrero did reach #1. Agassi has been in as much of a slump lately as Ferrero, and didn't even play Wimbledon this year, and could fall out of the Top Ten soon. But it's Philippoussis whose ranking will really suffer this week.

July 1: Wimbledon - Fourth Round
Sebastien Grosjean (13) def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (3) 6-2 4-6 7-6(7-2) 7-6(7-3)
At the time, we said, "Now will you believe us when we say French players tend to like fast surfaces? The evidence, in Grosjean's case, is pretty strong. His first title was on grass. He just made the final at Queen's. Now this. Not that there is much to say about Tuesday's action, since the first three sets were played Monday.... For Grosjean, this result means he will move up at east two spots from his current #14, and possibly three, and if he can beat Tim Henman in the quarterfinal (and recall that it was Grosjean who beat Henman at Queen's), he'll be Top Ten. The real news, though, is at the very top, because this means that Juan Carlos Ferrero will not be passing Andre Agassi to take the #1 ranking. Indeed, in practical terms, he loses ground; he's more than 200 points behind Agassi, and every remaining required event is on a modern surface (meaning that Agassi will like it better than Ferrero). Still, it's worth looking at what the two have to defend over the next few weeks. [We included a table showing that] Ferrero has 510 points to defend between now and the U. S. Open, and several chances (admittedly at optional events) on clay. Agassi has 1100 points, and relatively little in the way of openings if he plays his usual (light) schedule. It's going to be an interesting couple of months." As was proved at the U. S. Open, of course. But the big question now is, can Sebastien Grosjean regroup and make some points on hardcourts?

July 2: No matches completed/Rain

June 6: Wimbledon - Final
Roger Federer (4) def. Mark Philippoussis 7-6(7-5) 6-2 7-6(7-3)
At the time, we said, "Roger Federer finally ran out of surfaces. Having already won titles this year on hardcourt, indoors, clay, and grass, he had no choice but to repeat. What he didn't repeat was his past history of weak Slam results.... The raw numbers say this was a tremendous match: Federer served brilliantly (he didn't face a single break point), made almost no errors, and hit winners from everywhere on the court. Philippoussis was weaker in all categories (including even serving), but was solid also. Looking on, that seemed to be partly an illusion. Federer didn't really look as good as in his match against Andy Roddick -- in fact, Federer at times looked pretty nervous. (For example, at the end of the third set, when he had and failed to convert a break point, and also in the final tiebreak, where he blew several championship points.) But so did Mark Philippoussis. Especially at the beginning of the second set, when he lost four straight games. Philippoussis played a clean but not brilliant match, Federer played a cleaner match, and that was that.... As far as the rankings go, the results are, well, interesting. Federer is now up to #3 in the world, behind Andre Agassi and Juan Carlos Ferrero, and he's #1 in the Race, barely ahead of Ferrero. But he's also in a complicated situation. Federer, as noted above, has four optional titles this year. Plus an optional title from last year. He has filled his optional five; the only way he can significantly improve his standing is to improve his results at required events. And that, historically, has been a problem. Of course, that was before he won Wimbledon.... As for Philippoussis, he's on the verge of the Top 20 in the rankings, and is Top Ten in the Race. He's now lost two Slam finals, both relatively routinely. (Against Patrick Rafter in 1998, he did win a set -- but he won only 11 games overall.) Still, he seems to have demonstrated that he's back. Federer finally gives Switzerland a men's singles Slam winner. He also continues a strange trend: The last seven Slams have had seven different winners (Johansson, Costa, Hewitt, Sampras, Agassi, Ferrero, Federer). Four of those seven (Johansson, Costa, Ferrero, Federer) are -- for the moment at least -- One Slam Wonders. Goran Ivanisevic, who won Wimbledon 2001, is also a One Slam Wonder. So was Marat Safin at the 2000 U. S. Open. We haven't had one player win two Slams in a year since Agassi in 1999. Of course, Federer will be doing his best to change a lot of those statistics in the coming months...." The next three Slams would add two more Wonders (Gaudio, Roddick) -- but Federer un-Wondered himself, and we suspect Roddick will eventually. The real question now is, Who will be #1 heading into the U. S. Open. That remains up in the air -- though, the way things stand now, Federer definitely has the inside track.

Five Years Ago: Ho-hum. Another Wimbledon in the Nineties, another Pete Sampras title. This one was over Andre Agassi -- their only meeting in the Wimbledon final...The doubles did see a new name, though: Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes won their first Slam together.

Ten Years Ago: This was a Sampras year, too: He earned Wimbledon #2 over Goran Ivanisevic, 7-6 7-6 6-0. The doubles was also a "dynastic" win; Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde won the second of their five consecutive, and six total, Wimbledons.

01-06-2005, 03:27 PM

Was It Just a Year Ago? - ATP
Once a week, Daily Tennis will look back at our Matches of the Day of a year ago, and at events of five and ten years ago, comparing what we thought the results meant with how things actually turned out.

January 5: Doha - First Round
Nicolas Escude def. Younes El Aynaoui (6) 6-3 6-0
At the time, we said, "This should have been one of the day's better matches. Younes El Aynaoui, despite approaching Elder Statesman status, is at the peak of his career, and he likes slow surfaces, and he's even more popular in the Middle East than in the rest of the world. Nicolas Escude's ranking is in the pits, but he has been Top 20, and there is the hope that he would finally be healthy this year. And he likes fast courts. On paper, that would seem to add up to a three set win for El Aynaoui. Unfortunately, there was the not-so-minor issue of El Aynaoui's ankle. For all that he wanted to play, for all that the conditions were to his liking, he just wasn't up to the task. He tried. But obviously his body wasn't up to the task.... The real question is how quickly El Aynaoui can recover. He has two weeks before he has to defend his Australian Open quarterfinal points. (We suspect you remember the match he lost to Andy Roddick....) Will it be enough time?" It of course wasn't even close; El Aynaoui missed more than half the year, and wasn't really able to play even when he came back; indeed, he didn't try to play Doha in 2005. He'll have plenty of time to recover this year -- but only finite injury exemptions. And, in a sad piece of symmetry, Escude is also injured now; he's missed more time over the past two years than even El Aynaoui.

January 6: Doha - Second Round
Jonas Bjorkman def. Andy Roddick (1) 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "Andy Roddick is not the same player he was a year ago. But he's still the same basic model; it's just that Brad Gilbert has souped him up a little.... Translation: The way to get to him is still to pester him off the ground. A guy with a good return game and a willingness to come to net can bother him, especially on a slow court. In other words, playing Jonas Bjorkman on Rebound Ace could spell trouble. We didn't expect this much trouble, given how easily Roddick disposed of Nikolay Davydenko, but this isn't a huge shock. In any case, we aren't here to bury Roddick; he will surely be back, and he will certainly be #1 for the next two weeks (though he will be under threat at the Australian Open). We'd rather talk about Bjorkman. Because Bjorkman just clinched his Australian Open seed. That's especially big because he has nothing to defend there. Oh, he'll lose some points because he'll take off an optional event.... But he can certainly gain ground in Melbourne. And his chances of doing so just got much better. Indeed, he's now up to #26, and won't need much more to become one of the Top 24 seeds. Even though he lost early in doubles, it's looking like a pretty good tournament." It also proved rather a last hurrah; the Swede didn't do nearly as well in 2004 as 2003, despite playing the Rebound Ace season. As for Roddick -- well, he would likely have lost the #1 ranking in Melbourne even had he won this, but a little more Rebound Ace practice might possibly have helped.

January 7: Doha - Quarterfinal
Tim Henman (7) def. Sargis Sargsian 6-3 6-1
At the time, we said, "Some days, the big matches are the crummy ones. Tim Henman ended last season by winning Paris. He's obviously taken up where he left off; not only did he win, but he won easily.... And with it, he settles a bunch of seeding questions. Sargis Sargsian is out of the race for an Australian Open seed. We now know 30 of the 32 seeds [with one more almost certain] That leaves one spot. The remaining question is whether Jarkko Nieminen or Ivan Ljubicic can grab it. We also know that Henman will be one of the Top 12. Pretty good for a guy who, in the weeks after the U. S. Open, was struggling to stay Top 40. Henman, in fact, is now only one win away from gaining a spot in the Top Ten. Given that he earned almost all his points in about half a year, it seems unlikely he'll stop there." Obviously he didn't; 2004 indeed proved his best clay year ever, though he was disappointing on grass. In hindsight, this was a bigger blow for Sargsian, who had the best year of his career in 2003 but fell off quite a bit in 2004.

January 8: Doha - Semifinal
Nicolas Escude (WC) def. Agustin Calleri (8) 6-2 6-3
At the time, we said, "It's been a tough competition for the hardly-coveted title of 'Comeback Player of the Week.' Thomas Johansson [returned after] more than a year off to reach the Adelaide quarterfinal. On the women's side, Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams have both taken the court (though not for points). But there is no doubt in our minds: Escude takes the prize. It's not just that he's back and doing well. All the others can say that, too. But Escude is doing it on a fairly slow court -- and most of his past success has been on fast surfaces. He did have one almost freaky Australian Open semifinal in 1998 (the year of Australian Open freaks), but other than that, he's been mostly a creature of grass and indoors. And here he was, whomping a good solid clay player on this slow surface. It would seem that Escude [has] found something new in the off season. He's certainly done wonders for his ranking. His half a year away from the game, and weak results before that, had caused him to fall below #110. But he's increased his point total by almost 50% in Doha. He'll probably end up between #65 and #70. And he goes into the final well-rested, whereas Ivan Ljubicic had to play three incredibly tough sets. Escude just might be on track for his first Rebound Ace title. If he gets it, he'll be knocking at the door of the Top 50. Calleri's loss means that he won't be breaking into the Top 20 just yet. But he does move from #24 to #22, and he has lots of slowcourt events still ahead of him at which to take advantage." Sadly, a year later, both semifinalists have been hurt for much of the year, and Escude is still bothered. He'll be falling back to about where he was before this event. Calleri is better off -- he's playing again, and his ranking is higher -- but it's going to be tough for him to recover his 2003 form.

January 10: Doha - Final
Nicolas Escude (WC) def. Ivan Ljubicic 6-3 7-6(7-4)
At the time, we said, "Give the Doha organizers credit: They sure know how to pick their wildcards.... It was a matter of injuries old and new: Escude hadn't played since hurting his hip at Wimbledon last year, and he did have his leg treated in the second set. Ljubicic, on the other hand, had a problem with his right arm. And since that's his serving arm, and he's all serve, that was a severe problem. In any case, it was Escude who played best longest. The rewards are obviously substantial. Escude will be leading the ATP Race tomorrow (with Ljubicic tied for second) -- but more to the point, he has largely eliminated himself from having to play qualifying at upcoming events. He came in ranked #114. He'll rise to about #60 -- meaning that he should get direct entry into everything except the clay Masters Series. Of course, he does have some points to defend in the next half-year -- but he has already earned almost as many points this year as last; assuming he doesn't develop any more injuries, he should climb quickly. And even if he doesn't, he still has his fourth career title." Of course, Escude did get injured again; we covered that above.

November 11: Chennai - Final
Carlos Moya (1) def. Paradorn Srichaphan (2) 6-4 3-6 7-6(7-5)
At the time, we said, "We always thought that Paradorn Srichaphan could lose at Chennai, but we had a hard time proving it. So did Carlos Moya. Srichaphan had already survived six match points in a previous contest here. In this match, he once again fought back after losing the first set. Fought back enough, in fact, to come within two points of the match in the final set tiebreak, where he led 5-3. But then Moya won four straight points, and the championship. And ended Srichaphan's nine-match winning streak here. Though the Thai still has a record of 13-2 [at Chennai], with two finals and a title. What he doesn't have, barring a withdrawal, is a Top 12 seed at the Australian Open. The result settled the last Australian Open seed race: Srichaphan will be #13, with Nicolas Massu #12. As for Moya, he's in a three-way tie for #2 in the ATP Race, but his ranking isn't affected at all. He came in #7; he leaves #7. He might move up in Melbourne -- but he's spent a lot of energy just getting this far." As it turned out, he would get hurt the next week, and it cost him quite a bit of time, though he managed to improve his ranking in 2004 even so. Now he has points to defend -- but he has every chance to move up at the Australian Open. As for Srichaphan, this was perhaps the first token of what proved a distinctly disappointing year.

Five Years Ago: It was starting to look as if Jerome Golmard would be turning into a major force in tennis: He won Chennai to pick up his second title, and wasn't too far from his career high of #22. Then came the fizzle, then the injuries. Golmard is 30 now, and his ranking is in the pits; the odds of recovery don't look good.

Ten Years Ago: It would be another two years before he would retire, but 1995 was the year Stefan Edberg really seemed to slow down (though he made a genuine comeback in 1996). This was the week he won his last-ever title, beating countryman Magnus Larsson at Doha.

01-13-2005, 04:21 PM
January 12: Sydney - First Round
Chris Guccione (WC) def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (1) 6-3 7-6(8-6)
At the time, we said, "If this is the price of success, Juan Carlos Ferrero may be wishing he had failed a little more last year. Ferrero in 2003, after all, won Monte Carlo (again), picked up his first Slam at Roland Garros, reached the U. S. Open final, became #1 in the world, won what is now effectively the biggest indoor event there is at Madrid -- and then went away. He did nothing at Paris. He did nothing at the Masters Cup. And now he's 0-1 in 2004 -- and losing to nobodies-in-particular. Chris Guccione has a big serve (he hit 19 aces), but not much else.... In terms of the rankings, this doesn't really matter for Ferrero; he's still #3. And he's not likely to lose that spot, given that #4 Andre Agassi has the Australian Open title to defend. But Ferrero did reach the Sydney final last year, so his point total will fall. And it might matter -- Andy Roddick, after all, has Australian Open semifinalist points to defend. This doesn't end Ferrero's chances of regaining the #1 spot, but it certainly doesn't help. For Guccione, this represents only his third ATP win -- and his biggest not only because he beat Ferrero but because he did it on a slow surface.... Since he's below #200, he will certainly climb in the rankings -- but he's too far down for us to really say how far." A year later, one has to suspect that this was more a comment on what was coming for Ferrero than a statement about Guccione. The Spaniard had a good Australian Open -- but then, Poof! He was gone. And he lost first round this week.

January 13: Sydney - Second Round
Martin Verkerk (8) def. Max Mirnyi 6-7(0-7) 7-6(8-6) 7-6(7-5)
At the time, we said, "Now we know why our power went out in our house this morning. The law of conservation of energy says that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, meaning that only so much is available at any given time. And these two Super Servers must have been sucking up every erg of it.... It was rather an ugly finish. Verkerk had two match points at 6-5 in the third, but failed to convert. Mirnyi went up 5-4 and serving in the tiebreak, and lost both points. One point -- one bad gust of wind -- here or there, and who knows what would have happened? It's hard to know what to make of this; it's not going to affect either player much. But then, none of today's matches was very effect-ive; that's why we chose this incredibly tight contest as the Match of the Day. The one noteworthy thing about it is that Martin Verkerk at last seems to be back. He largely vanished after Roland Garros last year, after all -- an odd thing, since the second half of the year is when nearly all the fastcourt events are played. But, of course, his shoulder was causing problems. The fact that he won this match -- even by the narrowest of margins against a guy who is also rather challenged in the ground game department -- is surely a good sign." Well, a good sign in theory; in practice, it perhaps just indicated that Mirnyi was another guy who was heading for a bad year. Verkerk did have one decent result, winning a clay title, but for the most part he was invisible in 2004.

January 14: Auckland - Quarter Final
Gustavo Kuerten (3) def. Vincent Spadea 6-2 7-6(7-4)
At the time, we said, "Gustavo Kuerten is a New Millennium kind of guy. Really. The Kuerten of the twentieth century is gone. Look at the numbers. Through July 2001, Kuerten had fifteen career titles -- thirteen on clay, one on a hardcourt, one indoors. Since July 2001, Kuerten could almost have been an American. His results have all been on hardcourts and indoors: Cincinnati 2001. Salvador 2002. Auckland 2003. Saint Petersburg 2003. Even his finals (Lyon 2002, Indian Wells 2003) have been on modern surfaces. Obviously the new model Kuerten is not quite what the old one was; he's been injured and his confidence has been shaken. He isn't a kid any more, either. But he's showing no signs of slowing down on these faster surfaces; this gives him eight straight wins at Auckland. If he can ever get the clay game going again, his improved results on other surfaces should make it easy for him to stay at the top of the game. For the moment, though, his Top 20 ranking is still in jeopardy. He needs one more win to hang on. Though even there, he had some help. He'll be awaiting the winner of Hrbaty vs. Kohlschreiber, meaning that he'll be facing an opponent who has done extra duty before the match even starts." As it turned out, 2004 was the year Kuerten finally won on clay again -- but he also suffered a recurrence of his hip injury. Whether he can ever really recover remains to be seen.

January 15: Auckland - Semifinal
Dominik Hrbaty def. Gustavo Kuerten (3) 6-3 6-2
At the time, we said, "Is anyone ever going to stop Dominik Hrbaty this year? The fates seemed to be conspiring against him. His quarterfinal had been suspended, so he had to play almost a full set against Philipp Kohlschreiber before starting this match. It didn't slow him down in the slightest. Hrbaty is now up to nine straight match wins to start the year, and is tied with Carlos Moya for the lead in the Race. Plus he's defended his points from the final last year. It's quite a start. Of course, because he was defending points, it won't help him in the rankings. It's not so good for Gustavo Kuerten, though, who was just clinging to the Top 20. The flip side is, Kuerten had never had much luck at this time of year until last year; he has trouble adjusting to the summer conditions and the change from day to night. If anything, getting this far is a good sign; he'll have had a nice Australian Open warmup." We talked about Kuerten above. For Hrbaty, the points from his two titles at the start of the year put him in the Top 20. But he played Hopman Cup rather than defend the first of them, and now he has to defend the second; his situation looks pretty dire.

November 18: Sydney - Final DOUBLES
Bjorkman/Woodbridge def. Bryan/Bryan 7-6(7-3) 7-5
At the time, we said, "Where does one start.... Start with the obvious: Todd Woodbridge has done it. He's broken the record. This is doubles title #79, breaking Tom Okker's Open Era record. Woodbridge was well aware of the fact: 'I've got to tell you, I'm a little happier and fulfilled than I thought I would be about today. The crowd was fantastic...I didn't know what I expected .But it was a full house who knew what they were watching today -- the verge of breaking a record and seeing a part of, I guess tennis history written.' But there really is more. Last year, Woodbridge and Bjorkman didn't win a title until Wimbledon. Bjorkman didn't even play the Australian Open. Woodbridge did (with Lapentti), and they even beat the Bryans -- but lost the quarterfinal. Woodbridge came to Sydney about 550 points behind #1 Max Mirnyi. That's an awfully big gap to overcome at Melbourne, but it's possible. And, in any case, there is plenty of room for the pair to increase their total after that. With Wimbledon and U. S. Open titles, they've proved they can still do it. Could Woodbridge, who turns 33 in April, still have time at #1 ahead of him?" It wasn't to be, and he and Jonas Bjorkman are splitting up. Still, Woodbridge continues to look like a threat to pad his record.

Five Years Ago: Going into the 2000 season, soon-to-turn 19 Lleyton Hewitt had a couple of titles, but had not really hinted at greatness. This was the year he hit the Top Ten and won four titles. He had already won Adelaide; he backed it up by winning Sydney. But the real Breakthrough Player of 2000 was Magnus Norman -- who would win five titles, reach a Slam final and a semifinal, and eventually work his way up to #2 in the world. It started this week, when he won the title at Auckland.

Ten Years Ago: Patrick McEnroe won the one and only singles title of his career, beating Richard Fromberg at Sydney. By wild coincidence, another doubles specialist, Paul Haarhuis, also won his one and only singles title, at Jakarta.

01-13-2005, 05:43 PM
>>Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes won their first Slam together.

Yay!@!! nice thread !!!

01-27-2005, 01:47 PM
January 18: Australian Open - First Round
Robin Soderling def. Rainer Schuettler (6) 4-6 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "And to think Rainer Schuettler had Robin Soderling right where he wanted him. Two sets up. Hot and sticky, just the way Schuettler likes it. Then, whatever has been jinxing Schuettler all year jinxed him again. He's won nothing in singles, and when he had a little success in doubles, his partner got hurt. For a guy who seems to have been constructed for Rebound Ace, it's terrible -- it's not just that he ends up with a mere one point, it's that he's missed the best part of the season. Ironically, Schuettler will almost certainly keep the #6 ranking.... But how is Schuettler supposed to get back in form if he never manages to get past the first round? For Robin Soderling, this is more evidence of good things to come. The young Swede has already shown talent; now he's showing great stamina as well. But, of course, it's only second round points; he needs more if it is to help his ranking much." And we thought Schuettler's situation was bad then. We hadn't seen anything yet. And, as of now, Soderling is ranked ahead of the German.

January 21: Australian Open - Second Round
Guillermo Canas def. Augustin Calleri (22) 6-1 4-6 2-6 7-6(7-2) 6-4
At the time, we said, "All right, we know, this is an obvious choice: The day's only upset. And though it was dramatic, the individual points frequently weren't all that exciting: Two Argentine clay-courters out there racing around almost forever. But, of course, it's an announcement that Guillermo Canas is back. Not back to the top of his game, perhaps... it's significant that Canas made it through a full five-set match and was able to keep running till the very end. That could be very important in the weeks and months to come. In terms of the rankings, this really doesn't make much difference. Canas lost in the second round last year, so he'll gain a little -- but he's so far down that he'll be living off his injury ranking for a while yet. Calleri may also benefit; he lost first round last year, so even second round points are some slight help. If the tournament ended now, he would be Top 20. But there are still quite a few players who can overtake him." As it turned out, Canas still needed a little while to get his game entirely back. But he did get it back. As for Calleri, this was close to his peak; he would get hurt not too long after.

January 22: Australian Open - Third Round
[b]Sebastien Grosjean (9) def. Dominik Hrbaty 2-6 6-4 6-1 6-3
At the time, we said, "Reality had to hit someday. Dominik Hrbaty's 11-match winning streak is over. Which raises, once again, the question of whether one should play two Australian Open warmups when those events are optional and Melbourne is required. Hrbaty, of course, couldn't have guessed he would win both. But having won Adelaide, did he really need Auckland? ... Hrbaty in fact benefits even though he lost, and lost rather lamely at the end (exhaustion certainly had to set in sometime). Last year, the Slovak fell in the first round to Xavier Malisse, so he gains 70 points even with this loss. Unfortunately for him, he came in at #44, in a part of the rankings where the climbing is rather steep, so he'll only gain about two spots. And he still leads the ATP Race... but that will end soon. Who knows what might have happened had he not run out of gas? For Grosjean, this still leaves him a little behind last year's pace; he had quarterfinalist points to defend. That means that he could still end up as low as #16 -- but hardly lower than that..." A year later, Hrbaty hit the Top 20, fell out, and turned in a good Melbourne result to get back in again. But Grosjean faced the problem of defending big points, and failed in his first try; he's out of the Top 25. He'll face the problem again for the next several months -- meaning that it will be tough to climb until the second half, when it will be easy indeed. Assuming he's still healthy.

January 25: Australian Open - Fourth Round
Roger Federer (2) def. Lleyton Hewitt (15) 4-6 6-3 6-0 6-4
At the time, we said, "Once again, it was like one match, but two contests. Roger Federer came out absolutely flat, and Lleyton Hewitt pounced. But Federer was like one of those old fluorescent bulbs they use in high school gymnasiums: Slow to get started, but it just gets brighter and brighter.... And that means that things remain very interesting at the top. With Federer and Andy Roddick and Juan Carlos Ferrero all in the quarterfinal, we still have a three-way race for #1. Federer still has the lead -- but it's insignificant now. The gap between Federer and Andy Roddick is less than the points they can earn for reaching the semifinal -- meaning that if Roddick wins and Federer loses, Roddick remains #1. And Federer faces long-time nemesis David Nalbandian next (though he broke that jinx at last year's Masters Cup).... For Hewitt, this ends his hopes for a return to the Top Ten. He'll end up #13. We now know nine of the Top Ten; the only question is whether Paradorn Srichaphan or Sebastien Grosjean will earn the final spot." Despite the loss, Hewitt would of course go on to reach the Top Ten not much later. But this was symbolic: Federer beat Hewitt, formerly a nemesis, in a Slam. It wouldn't be the last time....

January 26: Australian Open - Quarterfinal
Marat Safin def. Andy Roddick (1) 2-6 6-3 7-5 6-7(0-7) 6-4
At the time, we said, "Pick your headline. Is it 'Marat Safin's Back'? Or is it 'Andy Roddick Is No Longer #1'? The one advantage to the latter headline is that it's guaranteed true. Because Roddick was defending semifinalist points, and failed to defend them, and because Roger Federer has increased his point total, we know that Roddick will fall off the top spot -- though we don't yet know whether Federer or Juan Carlos Ferrero will be #1. Right now, it's Federer -- but if Federer loses to David Nalbandian and Ferrero makes the final, or if Ferrero wins the whole thing, it's Ferrero. And if Ferrero makes the final (win or lose), then Roddick is #3. Quite a swing for a match settled by so few points! .As for whether Safin is back -- well, the obvious point here is that he was able to play an incredibly long, tough match -- the sort that could have made the old 'oh-who-cares-the-girls-love-me-anyway' Safin give up. And he beat Roddick, who has been impressive all week, in solid style. One match isn't proof -- but we'd guess Safin is back. At least in terms of his game. His ranking has a long way to go, given that he came in ranked #86. That obviously has improved dramatically -- though it's a bit hard to tell just how much...." Since this wasn't the end, we'll get back to just where Safin ended up. As for Roddick, since Ferrero didn't make the final, he at least kept the #2 ranking.

January 27: Australian Open - Quarterfinal
Roger Federer (2) def. David Nalbandian (8) 7-5 6-4 5-7 6-3
At the time, we said, "The first set told the story: David Nalbandian was getting three-fourths of his first serves in, made only four errors -- and lost. Roger Federer was that good. And this against a guy who used to take Federer apart. In contrast to the [day's other quarterfinal], which was a mess, this was sparkling. Nalbandian played well from the baseline -- but Federer served well, and was in all-out attack mode.... Now all he has to do is stay at that level for one more match. Federer, after all, had the #1 ranking in his grasp last summer, and collapsed against Andy Roddick -- and that was why Roddick, and not Federer, ended last year at #1. That was last year. It's not any more. Roddick will be #3 next week. The only question is whether Federer or Juan Carlos Ferrero will be #1. Federer will be able to determine his own fate in the semifinal; if he beats Ferrero, that's it. Now we just have to hope no one reminds him until he's won the match.... Nalbandian had quarterfinalist points to defend, so this really doesn't make much difference to him; he's going to stay #8. In fact, every ranking from #6 to #15 is now set; apart from where Marat Safin ends up, the only questions remaining are #1, #2, #4, and #5. Federer is #1 and Juan Carlos Ferrero #2 if Federer wins his next match against Ferrero or if Federer loses but Ferrero loses the final; Ferrero is #1 if he wins Melbourne. Andre Agassi is #4 and Guillermo Coria #5 if Agassi wins Melbourne; otherwise, Coria will move up to #4, with Agassi at #5." A year later, of course, Nalbandian is again defending quarterfinalist points (and did precisely that, to end up just where he started) -- but Federer has no worries at all about his ranking at this time.

January 28: Australian Open - Semifinal
Marat Safin def. Andre Agassi (4) 7-6(8-6) 7-6(8-6) 5-7 1-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "Even Ageless Wonders get old eventually.... Andre Agassi certainly didn't watch his Australian Open streak, which covers the entire millennium to date, go quietly. Having lost the first two sets in tiebreaks, facing a guy who already had 20 aces without a double fault (Safin ended with 33 aces, and didn't hit a double-fault to the end), having broken only once in 12 service games, having spent nearly two hours on the court, Agassi still had enough left to take the next two sets. But the fifth finally started to slow him down. He was broken -- for only the second time in the match -- and that was that. Safin actually lost more points than he won (in fact, someone calculated that he's won just barely more than half the points he's played in the whole tournament, and in this case, just two points spelled the difference between a five-set win and a three-set loss) -- but he still won the match.... There are already mutters about whether [Agassi] should retire. It seems a pretty absurd speculation.... But he will be falling to his lowest ranking for a while. This will drop Agassi to #5 -- less than nine months after he was #1. It's not really much of a decline in terms of results; it's more that more points have been concentrated by a few other players. There is no doubt that Agassi is still a top player. He's just not the top player.... It seems that Marat Safin is at least a top player again. He came in at #86 -- so far down that we are a little hesitant even about calculating his ranking (we try to guarantee the Top 30, but he isn't Top 30 yet; our best guess is #32). Still, he's in his second Australian Open final, and even though he's played a lot of long matches, he'll have plenty of time to rest for the final. Even if he doesn't win the final, it seems sure that he'll be moving higher this year. He is, after all, currently #1 in the ATP Race." Once again, we had it mostly right -- Agassi had another big title in him in 2005, and Safin ended the year Top Five. But Sunday's sequel wasn't nearly as interesting as this prologue.

January 29: Australian Open - Semifinal
Roger Federer (2) def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (3) 6-4 6-1 6-4
At the time, we said, "You'd like the year's most important match so far to be more memorable. Which just goes to show that you can't have everything.... It was mostly routine. Theoretically, Rebound Ace should give Juan Carlos Ferrero a fair chance at Roger Federer; it's a slowish surface, after all, and for all that Federer is an all-surface player, his one Slam is on grass and the largest share of his titles have been indoors. And Federer... [had] never made it as far as the quarterfinal at the Australian Open. But, of course, it was until now the Old Federer who had played in Melbourne.... It certainly sets up an intriguing final: Federer versus Marat Safin, both looking for their second career Slams. And with significantly different approaches to the game. The reason [the match is] memorable, of course, is that it makes Federer #1. No questions; no if-this-then-that; he's #1, with Ferrero #2 and Andy Roddick #3. And #1 with a nice cozy lead, too: Almost 600 points, even before the final. That means that Federer is sure to keep the top spot at least through Indian Wells, and his chances even after that are pretty good -- if he wins here, he's likely to stay on top until Wimbledon.... And this may really open doors for Federer. He's reached all the milestones now; perhaps it will help him settle his jitters. He freely admitted to having some: 'There is a lot of joy, satisfaction, and pride in becoming the first Swiss to make it to No. 1 on the men's side.... I was really nervous tonight.... There is only one time you get to No. 1 for the first time in your career. I really want to enjoy it.'" Given that he's held the ranking ever since, and become one of the most dominant players in the history of the Open Era, we'd say he has.

February 1: Australian Open - Final
Roger Federer (3) def. Marat Safin 7-6(7-3) 6-4 6-2
At the time, we said, "Different nations produce different types of tennis players. Japanese are quick and steady but don't have big weapons. Australians love grass. Czechs are great at doubles. And the Swiss -- well, the Swiss have more touch and style per capita than any nation on earth. It's been most evident among the women -- Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder both made their marks with their shotmaking and their tactics. But nobody does it better than Roger Federer. Looking at this final, we couldn't help but think of the women's final of 2000, Hingis versus Davenport. Touch versus raw power. Even the number of breaks resembled a women's match. But with a difference. You could overwhelm Hingis with brute strength. Federer has enough power of his own to survive.... It wasn't a pretty match. Safin's serve had deserted him. and Federer was making far too many errors. Ordinarily, that would seem to favor the power broker; there are fewer things to go wrong in the Safin game. But the flip side is, even with a lot of things not working right, Federer still had more weapons that did function. The first set saw breaks go both ways, the second saw Federer tilt the balance slightly, and the third was a blowout. Safin, in response to a fan urging him on, cried out, 'I'm trying! I'm trying!' -- and, for once, he was. But the equipment just wasn't working. We've heard people say that this clinches the #1 ranking for Federer until Wimbledon.... It doesn't, quite, though it comes close. He has a big lead, but his primary competitors, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Andy Roddick, don't have much to defend. The interesting thing is to see how this affects Federer: Will this cure his nerves, or will it cause him to Wilander-ize? We'll see. Safin looked tired in the final, but he still showed that he's fitter than he's ever been, and he's also hungrier. He falls just short of the Top 30. Don't expect him to stop there." Safin, obviously, didn't, coming into Melbourne this year at #4. But he, like Federer, is defending -- and he's defended the ranking. But can he take the next step and actually beat Federer?

Five Years Ago: If Andre Agassi manages to play the Australian Open, his odds of winning it are close to even. This was one of the good years: He beat Pete Sampras in the semifinal, and Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the final, for his second Australian Open and his sixth overall Slam.

Ten Years Ago: Guess who won this one, too. In this case, Agassi took out Sampras in the final, 4-6 6-1 7-6 6-4. And that in his first appearance at the event! It was his third career Slam, and gave him three of the four, with only Roland Garros still missing. You know how that turned out....

02-03-2005, 04:48 PM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

Davis Cup Week -- no matches until the weekend

February 8: Davis Cup - Australia vs. Sweden
Jonas Bjorkman def. Mark Philippoussis 7-5 6-2 6-2
At the time, we said, "When it was announced that the Swedes were holding Jonas Bjorkman out of the Davis Cup singles, we thought it looked awfully funny. Sure, playing Thomas Enqvist made sense; he's the best player the Swedes had available based on career results. But Robin Soderling? The guy has a great future, but he's way too young.... The Swedes were way ahead of us, and we have to tip our caps. Their strategy was masterful. They weren't likely to beat Lleyton Hewitt in the opening singles no matter who they played, so they sent up Soderling as a sacrificial victim to rest Bjorkman. And if they still lost both first-day matches, they'd improved their chances of salvaging something later on. And boy did it work. Enqvist had beaten Philippoussis on day one, and though Soderling lost routinely, the Swedes worked a miracle in the doubles (maybe the Australians should have played Paul Hanley with Wayne Arthurs, rather than Todd Woodbridge; sure, Woodbridge is the better doubles player, but Hanley and Arthurs are a team...). And then they had another crack at Philippoussis -- and could plug in Bjorkman, with his fine return game, against Philippoussis on this not-very-fast court. And, of course, it paid off. Bjorkman was all over the Australian's serve, and wasn't ever really threatened himself, and he gave Sweden a routine clinch. It's a remarkably fast turnaround for Philippoussis. Last year's hero became this year's goat." And Philippoussis has gone nowhere since. Bjorkman really did a job on him -- though the Swede himself has gone rather downhill. At least in singles; he's back at the top of the doubles rankings.

Five Years Ago: No ATP Events played/Davis Cup week

Ten Years Ago: No ATP Events played/Davis Cup week

02-03-2005, 08:33 PM
thanx crimson for keeping this going :)

02-03-2005, 09:04 PM
Hewitt Slams Davis Cup; WTA Tokyo Previews

Posted on February 03, 2004

Tennis-X will preview two matches per day of the eight first round match-ups during the days leading to the first round World Group matches for the 2004 Davis Cup, finishing with the first ball hit on Friday. Today's features are defending champion Australia vs. Sweden, and the U.S. vs. Austria:

Site: Memorial Drive, Adelaide, AUS
Surface: Hard outdoors (Rebound Ace)
Ball Type: Slazenger Championship

This is the third meeting in three years between these two storied Cup countries, but unfortunately for Sweden, this match will go the same direction of the last two -- the Aussie way. But a glimmer of hope remains for the Swedes, with dissension in the Aussie camp after doubles specialist Todd Woodbridge lambasted Mark Philippoussis in the press after Flipper's loss at the Australian Open, questioning his dedication. Guess that old "Aussie camaraderie" is a thing of the past.

The Swedes will also have to make a tough decision between leading with the old guard in singles in Thomas Enqvist and Jonas Bjorkman, or giving youngsters Robin Soderling and Joachim "I'm Dating Lleyton's Sister" Johansson a trial by fire. With all the practice hitting Johansson has been doing with Lleyton Hewitt of late, it would be an interesting tactic.

The defending champ Aussies are the resounding favorites, on their home courts in Adelaide, with Hewitt and Philippoussis in singles, and Woodbridge and lefty serving machine Wayne Arthurs almost guaranteeing the doubles point. The winner here will meet the winner of the U.S.-Austria meeting in the second round.

"We believe we can surprise the Australian team and we do not feel threatened," said Swedish captain Mats Wilander from his perch in fantasy land. The only surprise in this one will be if the Swedes somehow avoid the 5-0 shutout like last April.

Site: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA
Surface: Hard indoors (Premier)
Ball Type: Wilson US Open Tournament Select

Not even the return of former No. 1 Thomas Muster would help the Austrians in this one. Last year's No. 1 Andy Roddick and Davis Cup rookie Robby Ginepri lead the singles effort for the Americans, while last year's No. 1 doubles team in twins Bob and Mike Bryan will be tough to beat, coming off a runner-up effort to Frenchmen Michael Llodra/Fabrice Santoro at the Australian Open.

"Robby has stepped up his game to the next level," U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe said. "He's had very consistent results. He had a very good tournament (at the Australian Open). His ranking is continuing to improve, and I felt like this was an excellent opportunity for him."

Ginepri's debut reinforced Pat Mac's lack of confidence in James Blake, who lost the No. 2 singles spot after his ranking took a nosedive in 2003. Taylor Dent took himself out of the running after getting pasted by Roddick in Melbourne, with the oft-injured serve-and-volleyer suffering from a hip problem.

Austria features the underpowered singles squad of Stefan "Tony" Koubek and Jurgen "Tuna" Melzer, both ranked well outside the Top 50 on the ATP Rankings. Julian Knowle and Alexander Peya have also been named to the Austrian team, and some combination from the four will be offered up to the Bryan brothers in the Saturday doubles. The only hope the Austrians have is catching the U.S. squad looking too far ahead to their potential second round match with the defending champion Australians.

Here are the Davis Cup title leaders since the inception of the 16-team World Group in 1981:


The WTA Tour is in Tokyo this week for the Toray Pan Pacific Open, with Venus Williams center stage in her attempt to regain the form that lifted her to No. 1 in the world.

"What I need to do now is just put my break behind me and keep moving on with the now and with each match that I play from here," said Williams after her shocking Australian Open exit to countrywoman Lisa Raymond.

Jennifer Capriati pulled from the event with a back injury, but the field remains strong with seven seeds joining Venus in defending champion Lindsay Davenport, Elena Dementieva, Ai Sugiyama, Chanda Rubin, Nadia Petrova, Jelena "Back with Dad" Dokic making her 2004 debut, and Daniela "The Walking Stick" Hantuchova looking to turn around her miserable 2004 campaign.

The unseeded Raymond could again meet Venus if she can win out to the semifinals, while (8)Hantuchova features in the only tough first round match-up against Aussie riser Alicia Molik. In last year's final, the No. 3-seeded Davenport upset top-seeded Monica Seles in three sets.

Roger Federer became the fifth player to go from year-end No. 1 junior in the world to ATP No. 1:

Roger Federer
Andy Roddick
Marcelo Rios
Stefan Edberg
Ivan Lendl

From ATP
Former TMS-Indian Wells champions Pete Sampras and Michael Chang returned to the California desert last week for the PGA Tour event at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in La Quinta. Sampras' team placed sixth in the amateur competition at 56 under par for four rounds. His playing partners were actor Luke Wilson and Louis Siracusano. Chang's team finished at 45 under par. His teammates were singer Michael Bolton and Robert Fraiman. Justin Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion who played with Chang in Wednesday's first round, said: "I played with Michael [Chang] and Michael Bolton today. I got to pick Chang's brain all day long about tennis and what is this tournament like and what is this player like. I probably wore the guy out. I certainly enjoyed playing with him more than he enjoyed playing with me."

Martina Navratilova after losing in the Aussie Open mixed doubles final in her last appearance at the event: "It was not quite the ending that I was hoping for, but it was a pleasure to be here on a Sunday, and I want to thank all of you for your support throughout the years. I'm not saying goodbye to Australia, I'm just saying goodbye to playing tennis here."...The Aussie Open has had many homes in its 99-year existence, including the Perth Zoo when it was carted around Australasia to satisfy provincial interests...Belgian journalists are saying Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters will get married soon after Wimbledon...Word is that Roger Federer will seek out Darren Cahill, Andre Agassi's coach, after Agassi hangs it up...After shooting off his mouth then getting the "I'm-going-to-beat-your-ass" phone call, tough-guy-turned-whuss Pat Cash says he is thinking about getting the police to issue a restraining order again Mark Phillipoussis...The World Anti-Doping Agency is poised to re-open cases against seven ATP players who last year tested positive to the steroid nandrolone, but were cleared by the ATP on a technicality, according to the Herald Sun...Magnus Norman had over three hours of surgery on both hips on Friday, Jan. 23, in Nashville, Tennessee. He is expected to be out of action for at least six months...Jonas Bjorkman slammed Pat Cash, saying former grand slam winners Bjorn Bjorg, Mats Wilander, and Stefan Edberg did not "have to be in the spotlight" like Cash wants to be: "It's unfortunate. It wouldn't happen in Sweden that a player who played in the past are going aggressively (against) any other players. They don't have to be in the spotlight any more. They can handle doing something different and they go back to a normal life. That's the Swedish mentality and it works well."...Lleyton Hewitt is leading complaints that the break is too short between the November Davis Cup finals and the February Davis Cup first round...Marat Safin says no one will win all four majors in one year: "Tennis is too equal, and everybody can beat everybody. Maybe two a year but not all four of them. It takes a lot of energy. It's too difficult. Too many matches."...Gael Monfils won the junior boys title at the Australian Open, beating Joss[B]elyn Ouanna 6-0, 6-3 in an all-French final.

02-17-2005, 11:49 AM
February 17: Rotterdam - First Round
Nikolay Davydenko def. Paradorn Srichaphan (4) 6-4 6-3
At the time, we said, "Could this actually mean that there is life for Nikolay Davydenko? It's reasonable to wonder. It's not just that he came here with a Race standing of #84; good players can have lousy Race scores at this point.... It's just the whole general shape of his last fourteen months. He stared 2003 by winning Adelaide. He won Estoril. He reached the St. Poelten final. And he stalled. In the first half of 2003 (through Roland Garros), he was 24-13. After that, he went 5-17, didn't make a single quarterfinal, and ended the year with an eight-match losing streak.... So maybe he can at last start to pick things up again. Given that top-heavy schedule, he definitely needs to get started soon.... The story is just the reverse for Srichaphan: He really doesn't have much reason to care. Last year, between the Australian Open and Miami, he won only one match, at Memphis. That being an optional event, it didn't count toward his ranking. This makes no difference to his ranking, either, except as a chance missed. But blown opportunities are part of his game; he did, after all, have ten opening-round and five second-round losses in 2003.... Not that the match proved much for Davydenko. The key was Srichaphan's errors and missed first serves. He went down two breaks in the first, got one back too late, then was broken early in the third. And then talked about how hard it is to shift to playing in Europe. Maybe that's why he has had his best results on summer hardcourts: He never has to adapt to a new surface. To sum it all up: It won't affect either guy's rankings. As for their prospects -- that's a tougher question." As it turned out, it was a good indication indeed: Davydenko is Top 20, and Srichaphan is going nowhere.

February 18: Memphis - First Round DOUBLES
Tommy Haas/Glenn Weiner (WC) def. Karsten Braasch/Jurgen Melzer 6-3 6-3
At the time, we said, "All right, yes, it's just doubles. But it wasn't a day particularly well-endowed with great singles matches. And, well, look who won. That's significant, because Haas has never before won a doubles title; he's never really even tried all that hard. His ranking peaked below #100. But here he is, partnering with a guy who is equally un-noteworthy in doubles (Weiner isn't even Top 200 in doubles) -- and they routinely beat two pretty solid doubles players (Braasch is #54, and a doubles specialist; Melzer is #71 despite being known mostly for singles). And it's hard to believe that it was Weiner who was responsible. Obviously it's not the start Haas wanted to his comeback; he's already lost his first two singles matches. But this at least seems to imply that there is hope. Germany could certainly use him right about now." A year later, of course, Haas is Top 20 again. This was a small sign, but apparently a real one.

February 19: Rotterdam - Second Round
Raemon Sluiter def. Sjeng Schalken (7) 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "The Irish blame everything on Oliver Cromwell and William of Orange. Maybe Raemon Sluiter should too. There was a time, three or four hundred years ago, when it seemed the Dutch might become the world's dominant maritime power, as England eventually would be. But three Anglo-Dutch wars, followed by William's assumption of power in England, blocked that possibility. The Dutch gradually went from a Great Power to small-nation-hood.... If the Dutch had held on, Sluiter might be the world's top player. Because he's spectacular when playing on Dutch soil. There are, of course, three events played in the Netherlands: Rotterdam, 's-Hertogenbosch, and Amersfoort. Last year, Sluiter reached the finals of the first and third and the semifinal at the second. That's a record of 11-3 at home. His record everywhere else? 9-23. He made one quarterfinal (Marseille). Maybe the guy needs to start carrying some Dutch dirt with him wherever he goes. Or his own bed. Something like that. Whatever it is that inspires him at home, it's clearly still working. Even against his countrymen. And, of course, this is a win Sluiter really needed. He needs a few more, too. His final last year was the single biggest result on his record. With this on the books, he's #62. Had he lost this match, he would have fallen about 20 places. As it is, he'll fall about 15 if he doesn't win his quarterfinal." A year later, Sluiter has faded badly -- as has Schalken, of course. But Schalken at least has the excuse of being sick....

February 22: Rotterdam - Final
Lleyton Hewitt (6) def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (2) 6-7(2-7) 7-5 6-4
At the time, we said, "Lleyton Hewitt is on a mission: To remind the world that he's a past -- and potentially future -- #1 player. And, so far, it's looking like 'Mission Accomplished.' The battle was as close as the score.... And so [Hewitt] becomes the second player -- after Dominik Hrbaty of all people! -- to have two titles this year, and the first to have titles on two different surfaces. And both good titles.... As a result, Hewitt finds himself up to #4 in the Race, trailing only Roger Federer, Marat Safin, and Ferrero. More important, he's back in the Top Ten. He was #9 win or lose this match, but he is now a strong #9.... Ferrero didn't win, but he proved once again that he can play indoors; it's interesting to speculate on how he might have done had he not played so many three-setters on his way to the final. As it is, he gains a nice consolation prize: The #2 ranking, pushing Andy Roddick to #3. Neither one has much to defend in the near future (prior to Monte Carlo, Ferrero has a second round showing at Indian Wells and a third round at Miami; Roddick has a quarterfinal at Indian Wells and a third round at Miami), so they could still hand it off a few more times. Still, the Spaniard can't be too upset at being #3 in the Race without even a whiff of clay...." Unfortunately for Ferrero, this was a sort of a last gasp; it's been all downhill since. Hewitt, though, has regained the #2 ranking. He's a long way from #1, but it was still a pretty good year.

Five Years Ago: It was a week of "lasts" and "near-lasts." For Magnus Larsson, it was his last career title, at Memphis. The player he beat was Byron Black, who was in his next-to-last final. The week's other event, Rotterdam, saw Cedric Pioline win his last optional event, though he did have one more required title up his sleeve.

Ten Years Ago: No real firsts or lasts this week, but a bit of Changing of the Guard: Yevgeny Kafelnikov beat Boris Becker at Milan, and Todd Martin beat Paul Haarhuis at Memphis.

02-17-2005, 03:22 PM
Thanks for updating this. :)

02-25-2005, 07:52 PM
February 23: Marseille - First Round
Jonas Bjorkman def. Raemon Sluiter 7-5 6-3
At the time, we said, "You can take the Dutchman out of the Netherlands -- but you probably won't like what you see. We talked about this last week. Sluiter may have a bigger discrepancy in his 'home' and 'away' results than any other regular ATP player. Last year around this time, he made the Rotterdam final -- and then proceeded to lose his opening match at his next six events. Obviously, in one sense, that spelled opportunity: Anything he does between now and the clay season goes to his ranking. But he has to do it. Starting against Jonas Bjorkman was not recommended. Bjorkman, of course, loves indoors. He loves it a little more now. This isn't going to affect his rankings for the moment -- but he is last year's finalist. As for Sluiter, it's another week passed with no progress." And he's made none since; in 2005, his results at home resembled his results everywhere else. And so he's fallen badly. As has Bjorkman -- but the Swede's decline has been general, not home-specific.

February 24: Marseille - First Round
Alberto Martin def. Paradorn Srichaphan (3) 1-6 6-3 6-2
At the time, we said, "This is one of those matches where you look at the result, and you look at it again, and you start scrambling to find some way to confirm it. Alberto Martin beat Paradorn Srichaphan? Indoors? The only thing we can offer by way of explanation is the fact that Srichaphan has been suffering with a left ankle sprain; he hurt himself at the Australian Open. He lost first round last week also. In a way, this is positive; he played a decent match for the first set. But there came a limit. What that means is that Srichaphan's hopes of breaking into the Top Ten are ended, at least for the moment. Of course, what he really needs is some results at required events; the big test will be Indian Wells. Martin has been struggling for some time now, but not so much that first round points are likely to make any difference to him. Still, it's a boost emotionally. He said as much himself: 'This is a very important win for me because I hadn't been playing well the last few weeks. To beat the 13th-ranked player indoors gives me a lot of confidence.'" Confidence, maybe, but he's still trying to make himself a consistent Top 50 player, especially away from clay. As for Srichaphan, he fell some 20 places during the rest of 2004. This wasn't the fatal blow -- but it certainly didn't help.

February 25: Marseille - First Round
Gregory Carraz def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (1) 7-6(7-2) 6-7(3-7) 6-3
At the time, we said, "There is nothing authors like worse than being forced to choose between headlines. Is this 'Looks like Gregory Carraz is at it again,' or is it a case of 'Looks like Juan Carlos Ferrero still hasn't recovered from all those three-set matches at Rotterdam'? No doubt the real answer is something of both. Ferrero really did play a massive amount of tennis in the Netherlands, and here he was in another three-setter. And, once again, he got stuck playing a local player in his own country. He has to be wondering what is going on with his draws. Though, to be fair, Carraz almost beat Ferrero last year, and said he learned from the experience: 'I'd never beaten a Top 10 player before and to win against the number two moreover in France, it is a great satisfaction. It wasn't the best match I played in my career but certainly the biggest win. It helped me having played him in Bangkok last year.' It's interesting and depressing to note that all three of the world's top players are pretty banged up right now. Roger Federer pulled out of this tournament. Andy Roddick lost at Memphis due to back spasms. And Ferrero missed Davis Cup with assorted minor problems, and wore himself to a frazzle last week and this. The men are a little healthier than the women these days -- but that's about like saying that Saddam Hussein was a kinder, gentler dictator than Adolph Hitler: It's true, but it's no praise at all. In terms of the rankings, this makes no real difference. Ferrero didn't play at this time last year, so he doesn't lose any ground and will remain #2. Carraz at this time last year was still playing Challengers; he hadn't started his big second-half rise. But he didn't have anything to defend at this moment. And it's still only second round points. He may gain a little, but it won't be much. Psychologically, though, think what this could mean for him...." It might have meant something -- but it didn't. Carraz never backed it up, and after a great 2003, spent most of 2004 sinking in the rankings. Though it was Ferrero who truly fell apart. And this was the match that did it, really. The week before, he'd been in the Rotterdam final. He's had no finals since, and from #2 a year ago he finds himself around #100.

February 26: Marseille - Second Round
Jonas Bjorkman def. (8) Marat Safin (WC) 7-6(7-5) 7-5
At the time, we said, "One of Doctor Seuss's many books proposed that English (and, by extension, other languages) need more letters than the 26 of the Roman alphabet. This is certainly true; English actually contains some three dozen meaningful sounds, and there are a number of phonemes in English which cannot be properly written (such as the two forms of th, which in Old English were labelled eth and thorn). But we have no need to do as Seuss did and create new letters; it's already done in the International Phonetic Alphabet. New words, though, we probably need. For example, we need a word something like "Safinesque." This would describe how Marat Safin, who can out-serve and out-return and just generally out-hit Jonas Bjorkman, can somehow have managed to have lost to the Swede for the third straight time. Looking at the score, you might gather the impression that it was a close match. It wasn't, really; Bjorkman was never threatened. He never once lost serve -- indeed, he never faced a break point. He lost only nine points on serve in the whole match, and only two on his first serve. Not even Safin can win matches where he can't get at his opponent's serve.... [The] effects of this are slight. Safin at this time last year was losing in the second round in Dubai. Marseille is a smaller tournament, but not enough to make much difference. And while Bjorkman lost first round at Dubai last year, this is still only an optional event. The real question is, exactly what does this mean for Safin? Anything? Or is it just the side effect of the injury he suffered in the first round?" Safin in fact was starting on a half-year very bad spell. Interesting to note that he suffered another bad loss this year....

February 29: Costa do Sauipe - Final
Gustavo Kuerten (3) def. Agustin Calleri (4) 3-6 6-2 6-3
At the time, we said, "And so Gustavo Kuerten finally had his chance to go for a clay title. He probably had more time than he wanted in which to think about it, in fact. The match was played over two days: Saturday was afflicted with rain, and eventually things turned muddy enough that play was stopped with the two having split the first two sets; they were on serve in the third when things stopped. It bothered Calleri: 'It was a weird final since we played in two different days and this is the first time it happens to me....' And so the jinx is finally broken. Kuerten hadn't won a clay title since Stuttgart 2001. His results on other surfaces over the past year and a half have been pretty good, by his standards -- several hardcourt titles and even an indoor title. Had he performed as well as he usually has on clay, and added those results, he would surely be Top Ten, and probably Top Five. Maybe this will open the floodgates. And, in terms of points earned this year, Kuerten is already up to #8. His entry ranking is lower, of course, and he has the Indian Wells final to defend in another week. But look at his clay results last year: Monte Carlo second round. Rome first round. Hamburg third round. Roland Garros fourth round. He really has nowhere to go but up. Calleri, though, will be going down as his Acapulco points come off; he earns only about half as many points for this final. Luckily, he was at a spot in the rankings where that won't hurt him much. And, of course, he gets to play Acapulco again this week." A year later, we see that this was about as high as Kuerten would go in his comeback; the injuries were soon to return. And Calleri had his problems, too. Unlike Kuerten, he's been back, and making slow progress -- but the key word is "slow." As for Kuerten, he's talking about a return -- but what are the odds that it will really work?

Five Years Ago: Juan Ignacio Chela won his first-ever title, beating Mariano Puerta at Mexico City. Considering that Puerta would collapse within a year, and Chela would get hit with a drug suspension (as would Puerta, somewhat later), it perhaps wasn't as nice an outcome as it sounds....

Ten Years Ago: Richard Krajicek won probably the biggest title of his life to that point, taking home the crown at the $2,125,000 Stuttgart Indoor event (not yet called a Super Nine/Masters, but obviously it had the cash!). That same week, a kid named Thomas Enqvist won Philadelphia. It wasn't his first title -- but it was the second of five he would win that year as he headed into the Top Ten for the first time.

02-25-2005, 07:53 PM
thanx :) beat me to it

10 yrs ago Krajicek and Enqvist :eek:

02-25-2005, 07:55 PM
thanks for the update:hug:
man i remember that carraz-ferrero match. horrible.

02-25-2005, 07:59 PM
thanx :) beat me to it

10 yrs ago Krajicek and Enqvist :eek:

No worries :) We must have posted at almost exactly the same time! :)

03-07-2005, 08:56 AM
March 1: Scottsdale - First Round
Jan-Michael Gambill def. Brendan Evans (WC) 6-1 6-4
At the time, we said, "For most players, the highlight of their years is the clay season, or the grass season, or the U. S. Open, or something big and recognizable like that. For Jan-Michael Gambill, though, it's the first week of March. This week, which until this year was the province of Scottsdale and Delray Beach, has been absolutely magic for the American. He won his first title at Scottsdale in 1999, then started playing Delray Beach instead, and won it for the first time in 2001 and again last year. It's a little strong to say that this is his whole year -- he does have assorted other finals, and that one lonely Wimbledon [quarterfinal] -- but no other week has been so consistently good for him. And so consistently important for him. Gambill came in ranked a mere #59; a bad result would translate into a loss of dozens of ranking spots. Of course, a first round win over a wildcard doesn't help all that much. But it's also helping him to get his game in tune: 'This is an atmosphere that I play well in. I've always played well in the desert. I've always seem to play well in California and Miami over the years.' With Indian Wells and Miami coming up, it's a good time." Sadly, it didn't amount to much -- and Gambill is so low these days that even second round points matter. And, this year, Gambill can't do well in the first week in March; there are no ATP events!

March 2: Dubai - First Round
Jarkko Nieminen def. David Nalbandian (4) 6-3 6-3
At the time, we said, "Seven is clearly not a lucky number for David Nalbandian. It's more like The Impossible Dream. Admittedly Nalbandian wasn't going to earn that spot here. Even if you ignore the fact that he's barely back from a bad ankle (actually, he isn't all the way back; he said himself that he wasn't moving well), the gap between him and #7 Carlos Moya was too large. But with #6 Rainer Schuettler in a horrible slump and Moya having the Miami final to defend in four weeks, Nalbandian had a real chance to scare a few people. Particularly since this is as big as an optional event gets. Instead -- yet another seed bit the dust.... Nalbandian wasn't defending anything that mattered this week (Scottsdale quarterfinal), and the guys behind him were, so there is no threat to his #8 ranking. But he came in a relatively weak #18 in the Race, and this won't help. As for Nieminen -- well, it's one of his better career wins, and he had even less to defend than Nalbandian. But, of course, it's still only first round points." Indeed, a year later Nalbandian is still top ten (though the #8 ranking seems to be a glass ceiling for him), and Nieminen has never really recovered his form. This was an aberration, not a trend.

March 3: Dubai - Second Round
Luis Horna def. Agustin Calleri (3) 7-6(7-5) 6-4
At the time, we said, "It was a crummy day for people who had success at Acapulco last year. Not only did Calleri lose, but the player he beat in the final, Mariano Zabaleta, is also out. They couldn't even scrape up a set between them. The ATP scheduling process being what it is, it appears this won't hurt Calleri. He wasn't actually defending anything this week, and the next few players in the rankings are all out of action.... The real danger is to Calleri's standing in weeks to come. He earned the largest part of his points last year in the three months from Acapulco to Hamburg: He won Acapulco, made the Estoril final, the Barcelona semifinal, and the Hamburg final. After that, he went 7-10 for the rest of 2003, with only one quarterfinal (Moscow). A few more weak results and he'll be in a lot of trouble. And, of course, the Latin American clay season is over...At least he's off to a decent start to the year, having come in at #15 in the Race. Though he will obviously be slipping. Luis Horna hasn't been nearly as successful this year -- a mere #56 in the Race. And he earned second round points at Acapulco last year also, not that it matters. But it's a nice bit of vengeance: Calleri beat Horna last week in the Costa do Sauipe semifinal as Horna tried to reach his first-ever career final." Calleri, of course, failed to defend all those clay points, and has fallen badly. Horna went on to the best year of his career -- but he doesn't look as if he'll be defending all that well.

March 4: Dubai - Second Round
Ivan Ljubicic def. Paradorn Srichaphan (7) 7-6 4-6 7-5
At the time, we said, "And so it's settled. Paradorn Srichaphan is not going to be making the Top Ten.... Given all that the Thai has been struggling through lately, this is actually a pretty good result. Ivan Ljubicic is a solid player, and Srichaphan kept it very close.... With another week to let his ankle recover before Indian Wells, plus the chance for some practice, he might finally be able to do some damage. Not this week, though. The best he can end up is #11.... The win raises interesting prospects for Ljubicic as well. He came in ranked #42, which wouldn't get him seeded at the spring Masters. But this puts him solidly back in the Top 40. And, Dubai being as big as it is, one more win would put him at #34 or so -- good enough that he probably would get a seed. And he doesn't have to face a seed until the final; next up for him is Feliciano Lopez." A year later, Ljubicic doesn't have to worry about seeding; he just has to worry about actually winning at required events. Srichaphan, though, has never really been the same since that ankle injury, even though he's long since recovered.

March 7: Dubai - Final
Roger Federer (1) def. Feliciano Lopez 4-6 6-1 6-2
At the time, we said, "The scariest thing about Roger Federer is not that he's winning everything. It's that he's winning everything on surfaces that aren't even particularly suited to his game.... For a while, it appeared that Feliciano Lopez -- he of the big lefty serve and the big lefty forehand -- might be able to bring that point home. He was, after all, up a set (after breaking in Federer's first service game) and on serve at 1-1 in the second. And then -- well, then Federer does whatever it is that he does to people. He absolutely controlled the rest of the second set, and the third wasn't much better. And that means that Lopez still doesn't have his first title. He also fails in his quest to hit the Top 20. He'll fall just short. It's still a career high. And it comes at a good time. Lopez came in having done nothing this year. Truly nothing. He was co-#138 in the Race, with three points. He's multiplied that by a factor of fourteen, and in the Top 30 in that department. As for Federer, what can you say? Another week, another title. He doesn't actually have as many trophies this year as Dominik Hrbaty, but he's won the two biggest events so far. In other words, he's taking up right where he left off. He of course remains #1 in the Race and in the rankings -- and by an unsurpassable margin in both. Nothing that happens at Indian Wells can affect his standing, and probably nothing at Miami. Indeed, he seems almost sure to stay #1 through Wimbledon. People complain about players on the women's side dominating. Right now, it looks like more of a genuine problem on the men's side. Federer is also the only man ever to have defended the Dubai title -- though the points were already off, so the points for his title do go to his total." Ironic to note that Federer leads both Race and Entry rankings right now -- the latter by a huge margin -- and people are still talking as if he's slumping. On the other hand, he's certainly kept up his streak of winning finals since....

Five Years Ago: Three events gave us one noteworthy and two improbable champions. Gustavo Kuerten won Santiago, which is no surprise. Stefan Koubek's Delray Beach title sounds more unlikely until you recall that the event was then still on clay. The really odd result, though, has to be Andreas Vinciguerra's title at Copenhagen. It's not so much that he never backed it up -- at that time, before his injury, he seemed a great prospect. The surprise was that Vinciguerra, who otherwise did best on slow surfaces, suddenly broke though on an indoor hardcourt.

Ten Years Ago: It was 1995, and a week when there was clay available. The conclusion is nearly inevitable. Thomas Muster won Mexico City (over Fernando Meligeni), the first of his twelve titles last year. The same week, Mark Philippousis made his first career final, at Scottsdale, only to lose to Jim Courier.

Doris Loeffel
03-07-2005, 12:28 PM
It's been a while I've read them but they are still great

03-07-2005, 12:32 PM
Great job!!

03-16-2005, 03:50 PM
March 10: Indian Wells - Qualifying
Wayne Odesnik def. Joachim Johansson 7-6(7-5) 6-3
At the time, we said, "Now this is something you don't see every day: Joachim Johansson being out-aced. But he was, 10-8. It's even more surprising since it came at the hands of Wayne Odesnik. Never heard of him? Don't blame you. He hasn't played a main draw match this year, and last year, he only twice appeared in ATP qualifying -- in each case, beating a doubles specialist and then losing. At Houston, he beat Scott Humphries before falling to Paul Goldstein; at Washington, he took out Donald Johnson before losing to Simon Larose. He wasn't spectacularly successful even in Challengers; he played three, losing first round at Tallahassee and Waco and reaching the second round of Atlantic City as a qualifier. This is, clearly, the biggest result of his career. (As best we can tell, his biggest previous win was over Thomas Blake, James's lesser brother, at the 2002 Lexington Challenger.)... Odesnik came in ranked #444, based on 19 events. He had 59 points. He'll gain quite a few spots -- but we're not going to try to guess how far, for someone down there. As for Johansson -- well, welcome to Required and Optional, kid. No, it won't actually hurt him. The Swede is obviously ranked high enough that he should have gotten direct entry here. But his rise is so recent that he ended up in qualifying. So this won't be held against him. Call it a warning. A tough one." It was, obviously, a warning Johansson heeded, since he's been Top 15 for about half a year now despite required and optional (though he lost early at Indian Wells again this year). As for Odesnik -- having had his big win, he proceeded to lose in the final round of qualifying. At least he made it to the main draw in 2005....

March 11: Indian Wells - Qualifying
Fernando Verdasco def. Robert Kendrick 6-4 6-7(4-7) 6-2
At the time, we said, "Evidently Fernando Verdasco is starting to like this business of winning.... Based on this week's rankings, Verdasco shouldn't have been forced to play qualifying here. But, of course, entries closed long before his heroics at Acapulco. So here he was, having to play his way into the main draw. And, this time, it wasn't on clay. We can't tell you much about what happened here; it's just qualifying, after all. And, since this is a 96-draw, it isn't even worth any noticeable points -- 1 Race point, plus whatever Verdasco earns in the main draw. It truly won't change his standing any. But the timing is good. Last year, Verdasco made the third round at Miami as a qualifier -- his second-biggest result of the year (he also made the U. S. Open third round). This gives him a chance to protect some of those points -- and to continue to sharpen his hardcourt skills. Oddly enough, he seems to like this surface better than clay. Or did, until last week, when he probably changed his mind. This may cause him to chance his mind yet again." A year later, we must admit that we were amazed to find Verdasco still playing qualifying at this time in 2004. He's clearly gone on to much better things since. Now he just has to deal with the higher expectations of being a Top 50 player.

March 14: Indian Wells - Second Round
Sebastien Grosjean (13) def. Davide Sanguinetti 6-2 6-2
At the time, we said, "2004, so far, has not been kind to Sebastien Grosjean. Oh, he came in with a respectable Race standing of #16, but they're old points. His 62 Race points were all earned in the first month of the season; he hasn't played since. Sure, it's been all optional events in the interim, so he can make up the ground -- but only if he can get in enough matches to stay in form. We were really worried about that. Obviously we needn't have been so nervous. Grosjean came back in fine form, breaking five times and only being broken once -- a very good test for him, since his serve isn't exactly at the top of his list of weapons.... In terms of rankings effects, of course, it's still too early to tell what it means. Grosjean came in with Round of Sixteen points to defend, so he still needs one more win to stay where he was. But with Martin Verkerk and Gustavo Kuerten out, it looks as if he's all but clinched his Top 15 spot.... Last year, Davide Sanguinetti lost first round at Indian Wells, falling to Guillermo Coria by the improbable score of 6-0 2-6 6-0. Reaching the second round doesn't help him much -- but considering that he's been clawing to get back into the Top 100, he'll take anything he can get. This might translate into a few ranking spots." A year later, Grosjean is off to an even slower start, and is ranked lower as well; he really needs to get things going. But that's nothing to the struggles Sanguinetti has been going through....

March 15: Indian Wells - Third Round
Juan Ignacio Chela (32) def. Lleyton Hewitt (8) 6-3 4-6 6-1
At the time, we said, "Sometimes, picking a match of the day is a process of sorting through stories and trying to find some faint gleam of significance. Other times, something reaches out and just plain attacks. This one reached out and attacked. For a lot of reasons. The result was, of course, shocking -- particularly on a hardcourt; it would have been more reasonable on clay. The reason wasn't hard to find: It was Hewitt's serve. Or, rather, his lack of serve. When he put his first serve in, he was all right, winning two-thirds of the points. But he only put 39% of his first serves in! He also produced eight double faults (Chela had none). Hewitt started the match by running up a 3-0 lead, with break points in game four -- but then lost seven straight games. Hewitt would earn another break in game five of the second set, and made it hold up, but that was that. It is, obviously, a very big loss for the Australian; Hewitt was the defending champion.... And his results were very front-loaded; he has nothing in the last part of the year, so his early results are very big. And this was the biggest of all -- over a quarter of Hewitt's total points. He came in ranked #9. This will drop him to no better than #18 -- and there are still players below him with the chance to move up. The only good news for Hewitt is that he has almost nothing to defend in the next few months.... Chela came in ranked #34, and this does gain him a few points (he lost in the Round of 32 last year). He's almost certainly moved in the Top 30. But just barely." This was, obviously, only a bump in the road for Hewitt, and now spells opportunity. For Chela, though, it's a lot of points to defend.

March 16: Indian Wells - Fourth Round
Guillermo Coria (4) def. Sebastien Grosjean (13) 3-6 7-6(7-2) 6-2
At the time, we said, "It's getting harder and harder to find something to actually talk about at this tournament. If you live in the U. S., you've probably been Andre Agassi'd to death (and if you haven't, the author has). We've covered Tommy Haas repeatedly. We're saving Roger Federer -- either to talk about when he loses or to calculate what happens when he wins. And there were no big doubles results. Which leaves this. Surely the fastest-scrambling match of the entire tournament, since it features probably two of the three fastest guys on the ATP, and the other Ultimate Speedster, Arnaud Clement, didn't face either one. We hate to think how many miles these guys put on their legs in this long a contest. And it does actually settle some things. By winning, Guillermo Coria clinched the #4 ranking; Andre Agassi could no longer overtake the Argentine even if he won Indian Wells. Plus, it settled the Top Ten. We don't know the order with certainty (Andy Roddick could still grab the #2 spot here, and Tim Henman could move up to #8), but we know that the ten guys will be Federer, Ferrero, Roddick, Coria, Agassi, Carlos Moya, Rainer Schuettler, David Nalbandian, Tim Henman, and Paradorn Srichaphan. We also know that Grosjean, #14 coming in, will be moving up. He'll be #12 unless Agustin Calleri wins Indian Wells, and #13 if that most unlikely scenario plays out. Pretty good, considering that this is Grosjean's first tournament back after a six week layoff with a thigh injury." A year later, Coria has been shedding a lot of points, and now risks more, and his Miami final is coming off soon -- but at least he is secure in the Top Ten. It will be interesting to see if Grosjean can ever get healthy enough again to return there.

March 17: Indian Wells - Second Round DOUBLES
Arnaud Clement/Sebastien Grosjean def. Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (1) 6-4 7-6(7-4)
At the time, we said, "Tournaments vary in how well they like doubles. Some, mostly in Europe, give it full attention. Others, especially in the United States, seem to hate it passionately. Our guess is that Indian Wells doesn't like it much. How else do you explain the fact that, even with the Bryan Twins playing, even with the #1 ranking on the line, they shoved this match onto an outside court (and also shoved Bhupathi/Mirnyi onto an even-more-outside court)? It was pretty much your standard doubles match; a single break settled the first set, and there were matched breaks in the second. And, of course, the tiebreak was settled by a single minibreak. And that puts the Bryans rather in the hot seat, at least for the moment. Had they won this match, Max Mirnyi would have had to win Indian Wells to pass them, and Mahesh Bhupathi couldn't pass them at all. As it stands, a final will make Mirnyi #1 in doubles, and a win would make Bhupathi #2, with the Bryans co-#3. Though we could see a lot of changes at Miami, which Mirnyi won with Roger Federer last year. Clement and Grosjean aren't ranked especially high in doubles (#102 and #147, respectively), but don't let that fool you: They're ranked low because they don't play much. They didn't play Indian Wells last year, for instance. But they both like hardcourts (or faster surfaces), they're good friends, and they have pretty good hands. It's a solid doubles package. This won't help them all that much -- it's only quarterfinalist points -- but Clement will move up to around #90 and Grosjean to around #110. And it's getting Grosjean some match practice, which he certainly can use after his six week layoff." Wish we could claim foresight, and that we knew that Clement and Grosjean would win the event; we didn't. But it started Clement, at least, on a run; these days, he's earning most of his few wins in doubles. Of course, he lost early this year; his ranking will be hit hard when the points comes off.

March 18: Indian Wells - Quarterfinal
Andre Agassi (5) def. Guillermo Coria (4) 6-4 7-5
At the time, we said, "In tennis, the question is not 'What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object,' it's 'What happens when an irresistible force meets an extremely movable object.' And the answer is, 'It depends upon the surface.' On clay, the edge in this match-up would definitely be with Guillermo Coria. But this is a hardcourt. Still, it had the feeling of the best returner in the game taking on the best scrambler in the game. There were a lot of breaks, on each side -- in each set, Agassi broke early, Coria broke back, and Agassi eventually secured a decisive break. But even though it was only a two-set match, it was a very long two-set match; it will be interesting to see what this costs Agassi. In terms of rankings, it doesn't cost Coria anything. #4 he came in, and by getting this far, he has assured that he will stay #4. And Agassi will stay #5, and that with Miami to defend starting next week. Still, Agassi climbs from #8 in the Race into the Top Five, and his points are nearly all required points. As of right now, he's #5 in safe points even when Miami comes off. And every additional point he earns here makes him more secure. He still remains a strong candidate to win here. Problem is, there are two other strong candidates left in Roger Federer and Andy Roddick. And Agassi faces Federer next." Agassi, of course, lost -- and it's been largely downhill since. We'd hate to say that the effort he expended here was the reason. But it can't have helped.

March 21: Indian Wells - Final
Roger Federer (1) def. Tim Henman (9) 6-3 6-2
At the time, we said, "Roger Federer has an interesting set of initials. We were sort of doodling around with the letters 'RF,' thinking about things like 'Radio Frequency,' and then the obvious occurred to us: 'Repeated Finals.' Federer certainly has his share and then some. On the other hand, against Tim Henman, his record had been more like 'Repeated Failures.' Over the past year or so, Henman has been better than any other player at dealing with the very best in the game. He was the only person to have beaten Roger Federer this year (at Rotterdam). He also beat Federer at Paris last year, and four times before that in their careers. And, of course, Henman was the only player to bear Andy Roddick on hardcourts last summer (at Washington), and beat him again at Paris, and again here. Yes, he lost to Roddick at the U. S. Open, and hasn't produce[d] anything special against Juan Carlos Ferrero lately -- but we defy you to name anyone who did better overall against the top players since Wimbledon than did Henman. That was then. This is now. Right now, Federer is just doing magic. Confronted with baseliners, he attacks the net at any occasion. Against netrushing Tim Henman, who had an eleven-match winning streak at Masters events, he sat at the baseline and calmly took his opponent apart. Henman played some of the best tennis of his life here -- but Federer broke him early in the first set, and then twice in the second, and never [faced] a break point.... Despite losing, Henman moves from #9 to #8 in the rankings, passing David Nalbandian, and he's now less than 400 points behind #6 Carlos Moya. He's #7 in the Race, and playing very well; odds are that he isn't done rising (though of course he'll have to start playing clay soon). But that's trivia next to what Federer is doing. The guy has only one loss all year; his numbers are Sampras-like. (And that's Sampras circa 1994, we hasten to add.) His lead in the rankings is now over 1000 points, and he has 'only' quarterfinal points to defend at Miami. His Race lead is about in proportion -- over 200 points. More notably, he has more than twice the points of Race #2 Marat Safin. And 80% of Federer's points are from required events. He hasn't clinched the year-end #1, of course -- there are always injuries. But if he can stay healthy, it's going to take something quite impressive to overtake him." A year later, we can't help but note that Federer hasn't lost a final since, and remains a dominant #1. And will be a dominant #1 no matter what happens this year -- though the top Race spot was is still in play.

Five Years Ago: Alex Corretja posted his best-ever non-clay result, winning Indian Wells over Thomas Enqvist. It was the last Masters title of his career (though he did have one more Slam final in his future), and the first of five titles he would win in 2000 (the last time he would win more than two in a year). All of which, ironically, added up to only a year-end #8 ranking. Still not bad considering that he had been injured and fallen to #26 in 1999.

Ten Years Ago: Ah, the good old days. At Indian Wells 1995, Pete Sampras beat Andre Agassi in the final. Anyone surprised?

04-01-2005, 10:55 AM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

March 24: Miami - First Round
Goran Ivanisevic (WC) def. Nicolas Escude 6-4 5-7 7-6(9-7)
At the time, we said, "This one had Match of the Day written all over it even before the final set tiebreak. Two guys, both making comebacks from injury. Escude had won Doha, of course, so we knew that he was mostly back. Ivanisevic was harder to read. He'd done well in his first tournament back, but slipped somewhat since then. And it wasn't exactly the surface of choice for either one; although Ivanisevic is a natural clay player, he tends to like things faster because of his serve. As for Escude, he tends to like things fast also -- and also because of his serve, though for a different reason: He doesn't have that big a weapon, so he likes fast courts that let him come in behind his lesser weapon. (This sounds odd, given that their peak serves were almost the same speed, but anyone who has faced him knows that the might of Ivanisevic's serve is not measured by the radar gun but by what it does to his opponents). The slower-than-they-wanted court did result in a surprising number of breaks. Ivanisevic earned one to take the first set. The second set was unbelievable: Four breaks for Escude, three for Ivanisevic. And each posted one in the third. And so, after almost two hours, the third set tiebreak. Which pretty much followed serve, with Ivanisevic having a match point at 6-5, but Escude won both his serve points, and then it was his turn. But Ivanisevic won the next three points, and the match. That's tough news for Escude, who last year made the fourth round here -- his last wins of the year. #66 coming in, he will fall to around #85. Of course, that means he'll still get into the Slams, and he has nowhere to go from here but up. By the time of the indoor season, he should be fine. Ivanisevic, #592 coming in, will obviously see a significant improvement in his ranking; he'll end up around #500. And he obviously gave further evidence that there is still something left in that shoulder of his." Something, maybe, but not much; he would struggle his way to Wimbledon and finally quit. As for Escude -- well, he seems to be injured almost as much these days as Ivanisevic was two or three years ago.

March 25: Miami - First Round
Taylor Dent def. Mikhail Youzhny 6-3 6-3
At the time, we said, "It's almost an axiom that serve-and-volleyers take longer to mature than baseliners. Certainly when Taylor Dent showed up, with his huge serve and his netrushing game and his (at the time) lousy results, it was what people hoped. Over the last couple of years, Dent has overcome the late-development problem. But it's been replaced by another handicap: His back. He isn't quite the clockwork injury machine some WTA players are, but it's just about guaranteed that he'll miss a few weeks each year. And given that he came in ranked #37, a mere 80 points below the #30 player, that's probably been the thing that's holding Dent out of the Top 30 -- and, hence, forced him to play the first round here. And, of all the players who just missed seeding here, Dent had perhaps the worst first round match of the bunch, confronted as he was with Mikhail Youzhny -- probably the best of the young Russians, and their Davis Cup hero; he too might be Top 30 were it not for injury. It was not a very Dent-like match in one sense; he didn't have a single ace! Still, his serve was key; he won over 80% of his first serve points, and less than half of his second serve points. But he put two-thirds of his first serves in, and came to net at every chance, and won two-thirds of the time when he came in. (And those 44 net points represented almost two-thirds of the points he won.) He was actually broken once, but he managed four breaks himself to make it to the second round. In terms of points, that won't help him; he was defending second round points. But his draw is interesting -- he will face Jonas Bjorkman next, with both looking for ways to come in, and after that, he'll face the other young American bomber, Andy Roddick. Youzhny seems to have a thing about 6-3 6-3 scores in Miami; he lost to Radek Stepanek by that same scoreline last year. That was a second round match, but Youzhny was ranked higher back then; he had been seeded and had a first round bye. So he too will stay right where he was." A year later, with one thing and another, Dent is only slightly higher than he was in 2004, though he has been having a very good week this week. But Youzhny has definitely gone up -- evidently this was no omen at all.

March 28: Miami - Third Round
Andrei Pavel def. Lleyton Hewitt (17) 6-3 7-5
At the time, we said, "This is one of those very strange matches. In most regards, Lleyton Hewitt was out-serving Andrei Pavel. He had nine aces. He won 80% of his first serve points.... He hit ten double faults. That, combined with winning only about one point in three on his second serves, added up to three breaks for Pavel. Who was playing the more aggressive game anyway; he came to net more, and did very well while there. And Hewitt was making a very un-Hewitt-like number of errors. The rest you can see. The good news for Hewitt is, he actually did better this year than last. The bad news is, he needs the points more now. A better result in 2003 might have kept him #1 longer, but there seemed no real threat, at the time, that he would fall out of the Top Five -- let alone out of the Top Fifteen! But then he went into his sulk, and you know how that turned out. This year, Hewitt really does seem to be more committed to playing, even if it means playing by the ATP's rules. But what did all that time off cost him? He did well on Rebound Ace, of course -- his natural surface. But he hasn't seemed right since. And this is his last big opportunity for a while. Clay is, historically, his worst surface by a lot; his only real hope for moving up was to succeed here. And look what happened. Hewitt came in ranked #18. He can't move above that; he might well lose a spot or two. Indeed, it's theoretically possible that he could drop out of the Top 20 (though we'd bet a lot against that happening). He could be unseeded at Rome! A rough day indeed. As for Pavel, he's still in the 'Every Point's a Gain' phase. He came in ranked #50, and hasn't anything of note to defend for a while. He'll gain only a few spots, but it's obvious that he isn't done moving up." A year later, with Hewitt back at the top of the game, and this should have been his chance to really build a lead. Instead, he's injured.

March 29: Miami - Third Round
Andy Roddick (2) def. Jonas Bjorkman (26) 6-4 3-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "We've never checked this, but it seems likely that, early in the week, our Matches of the Day are mostly about upsets, but as tournaments progress, they tend more and more to be about players reaching milestones. That's not really surprising; we tend to look at results with implications, and in the early going, that tends to be because players fail to defend points, while late in the week, it's because they achieve more than they did in the past. Either way, the result is likely to be a big move in the rankings, or in the record books. But with a long tournament like Miami, we're sort of on the cusp. There were no upsets, so that was out. But it's too early for anyone to reach any milestones, either -- other than the kids who were trying and failing to achieve upsets, anyway. So what's left? Well, this was almost an upset and almost a milestone. Had Jonas Bjorkman won, we would have had an upset. Since Roddick won, he's only one win away from returning to the #2 ranking. Close as we can get. Bjorkman is, really, the sort of guy to get to Roddick: He returns well, and he's aggressive. A year ago, he might well have won this match. As it was, he earned the minimum two breaks necessary, but couldn't hold his own serve when it really counted, and so Roddick is through in a match that actually went rather faster than the scoreline might imply; it took only about an hour and forty minutes, though the overall quality was extremely high. In terms of results, it really is an 'almost' match. Bjorkman came in at #28, and should gain a spot or two, but he'll fall short of the Top 25. Roddick is one win away -- actually, a mere 20 points away -- from #2, but he does have one more match to win. On the other hand, the win moves him past Marat Safin into the #3 spot in the Race; we have what amounts to a two-way contest between Roddick and Andre Agassi for the #2 Race spot, with whoever lasts longer getting it...." Roddick of course did get to #2, and held it for many months after this, but now he's down to #3 and he lost early this week, meaning that he could easily fall to #4 soon. On the other hand, he's doing better than Bjorkman, who has been sliding in singles and recently lost the #1 doubles ranking.

March 30: Miami - Fourth Round
Agustin Calleri (20) def. Andre Agassi (4) 6-2 7-6(7-2)
At the time, we said, "It was quickly apparent that Andre Agassi wasn't there. Agustin Calleri wasn't serving very well, but Agassi just wasn't getting his teeth into all the second serves he was offered. And, off the ground, Calleri was fine, and Agassi was flat. Not much more to say about the first set. The second was closer not so much because Agassi improved as because Calleri started to struggle a little more. But Agassi had a half a dozen set points at 4-5 in the second (admittedly on Calleri's serve), and didn't convert a one, and threatened again in the twelfth game, and nothing came out of any of it. The tiebreak was just ugly.... But the implications are interesting. Agassi's winning streak here -- which went back for four years -- is finally broken. It doesn't threaten his ranking; he's still #5 in the world. And yet, for the first time since Roland Garros 1999, Agassi finds himself with no required titles on his record -- no Slams, no Masters, no nuttin'. The only title he has left is Houston, and that comes off soon. Agassi has admitted that it's harder to spring back after tough matches, and it's fascinating to see how often the greatest returner of all time is getting aced. Maybe it's a coincidence. If Agassi were ten years younger, we'd say it was coincidence. Now -- well, we don't want to make too much of it; the guy is, after all, still Top Three in the ATP Race, and it's not as if he's over-playing to improve his points! For Calleri, this didn't mean all that much in the short term.... On the other hand, he's had most of his big results on clay. Posting a win like this on hardcourt is not good news for everyone else out there." But, of course, Calleri couldn't keep things up, and has fallen dramatically. So has Agassi, of course, but he's still Top Ten, and has done better this year than last, and has plenty of room to climb in coming months.

March 31: Miami - Second Round DOUBLES
Clement/Grosjean def. Bhupathi/Mirnyi (2) 7-6(7-3) 7-5
At the time, we said, "Now here's an interesting question: Are Arnaud Clement and Sebastien Grosjean turning into gods, or are Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi turning into chumps? Clement and Grosjean have now won seven straight matches, all at Masters events, but Bhupathi/Mirnyi once again have blown chances to grab the top doubles spot. It hasn't really been a bad year for the two former top guys, but it hasn't been good, either; they aren't even in the Top Ten in the doubles Race. The two just seemed flat; when Bhupathi and Mirnyi produce only three aces in a match this long, you know there are problems. And they pay the price. Mirnyi, last year's champion, falls from #3 to #4. That lets his partner Bhupathi rise to #3, but it's not a very impressive #3. The real beneficiaries are the Bryan Twins. They are now guaranteed the #1 rankings, and they have a chance to really open some ground between now and Roland Garros. For Clement and Grosjean, this doesn't really mean all that much. They're part-time doubles players, after all. Clement came in at #44 (with almost half his points from the title at Indian Wells) and Grosjean at #70 (with more than half his points from Indian Wells). Clement is close to hitting the Top 40, and Grosjean will climb into the Top 60 -- but who knows whether they will play enough to follow it up?" As it turned out, Grosjean wouldn't, though Clement did rise a lot in the doubles rankings. As for Bhupathi and Mirnyi, they're now barely clinging to the Top Ten -- and aren't a team any more.

April 1: Indian Wells - Quarterfinal
Vincent Spadea def. Agustin Calleri (20) 7-5 6-1
The match above wasn't actually our Match of the Day; we in fact picked Andy Roddick's rather ugly three-set win over Carlos Moya. But we're going to get back to Roddick, so we're going to use the Spadea match because we had a funny little story to go with it. At the time, we said,
A Tale of the Beginnings: How The Tennis Pros Received Their Skills
After the Creation, all players were called before the Tennis Gods to receive a gift -- a special skill he would use once he reached the magical world of the ATP, which he could use to stay alive in the complex world of tennis. Andy Roddick received a fine serve. Andre Agassi was granted a firm return. Guillermo Coria was blessed with great speed. Carlos Moya was endowed with a fine forehand. Roger Federer was given a great assortment of shots. Vincent Spadea received a strange box with mystical symbols written on the outside. He never did figure out what it was. Years later, it appears that it was the ability to make the semifinals at the spring hardcourt masters as an unseeded player. Last year, he did it at Indian Wells. This year, he couldn't repeat that; he was seeded in the desert. But he came to Miami unseeded -- and lo and behold, here he is in the semifinal. He didn't really do anything special; he just played a safe game and waited for Agustin Calleri to self-destruct. Which the Argentine did, with 31 errors (as against 20 winners) in 19 games. What it all spelled was a 7-5 6-1 win for Spadea. And, for the second straight year, that spring hardcourt semifinal.
Of course, he failed to defend those points, and is out of the Top 30. But, based on his record, he's due for something big at the Canadian Open or somewhere....

April 4: Miami - Final
Andy Roddick (2) def. Guillermo Coria (3) 6-7(2-7) 6-3 6-1, retired
At the time, we said, "There isn't really much point in describing this match. Toward the end of the first set, Guillermo Coria tweaked his back. He stayed out there, and breezed through the final game of the set and even through the tiebreak, but he couldn't really serve (his velocity was way down, and you could see that he wasn't getting into the air in his leap), and after Roddick adjusted, it was downhill from there. Coria put up a fair fight in the second, hardly any in the third, had the back worked on again during the changeover, dumped a ball into the net, and gave in. No one quite knew what happened; Coria himself said, "At 4-5, when I served at 15-love, when I came down, the whole left side of the back stiffened up. It came from nothing, because I was feeling great up to that point.' Ironically, Roddick had been playing on an upset stomach himself. Which might explain his bad moments. But his problems, at least, didn't get worse as the match progressed. And it earned him career match win #200.... The irony is, it didn't change anything, at least in the short term. Roddick was #2 win or lose, Coria #3 win or lose. Roddick was #2 in the Race, too, win or lose -- though Coria, who came in at #17, would have been #3 had he won; as it is, he has to settle for #7. Still, Roddick is making it ever more clear who is king of American hardcourts. Of the five required events on this stuff, Roddick now holds four -- Canadian Open, Cincinnati, U. S. Open, and now Miami. Indian Wells is the only one he's missing (well, plus the Masters Cup, played on hardcourt last year)... now and in his career. The amazing thing is not that he's #2 in the world, it's that -- given his dominance on the sport's dominant surface -- he isn't #1. Of course, the reason he isn't #1 is that Roger Federer owns the other two hardcourt required events -- and he has better results on surfaces other than DecoTurf. Still, while Roddick isn't likely to threaten Federer in the near future, this makes things a little more interesting. Roddick is now 745 points behind Federer in the rankings.... Federer has a bit more to defend on clay.... So the top spot might be in play come the French Open, and will be in play at Wimbledon. Roddick has a long way to go -- but this definitely helps." A year later, Roddick has lost that hardcourt dominance, and Coria has been hurt, on and off, ever since (even though his problem at Miami proved to be merely a kidney stone). It's been a tough year for both finalists, both of whom had big points to defend and failed. Coria suffered the bigger hit, falling to the lower reaches of the Top Ten -- but it's Roddick who has had the really disturbing start to 2005. They talk about a "Big Four." Right now, Roddick is looking like a bit of a munchkin in that crowd.

Five Years Ago: It wasn't often, in this era, that you didn't see Andre Agassi in a Miami final -- but you did this year. Agassi lost in the semifinal (one of only three times in a ten year span that he lost before the final), letting Pete Sampras beat Gustavo Kuerten in the final. It was, ironically, Sampras's last non-Slam title: He would win Wimbledon 2000, and that famous U. S. Open -- and that was it.

Ten Years Ago: Now this is more like it. Agassi beat Sampras in the Lipton final. It was "only" his second Miami title. He's won four more since.

04-01-2005, 12:07 PM
Thanks TBE for updating this :)

04-07-2005, 02:12 PM
April 5-8: No Matches Played/Davis Cup Week

April 10: Davis Cup - France vs. Switzerland (Saturday)
Escude/Llodra def. Allegro/Federer 6-7(4-7) 6-3 7-6(7-5) 6-3
At the time, we said, "The trick, in preparing for and analyzing Davis Cup, is to find the decisive match. Not 'the match that clinches'; while it's not officially over until the clinching match, the true decider may have come before that -- as indeed happened in most of this weekend's contests. When Belarus's Vladimir Voltchkov won the opener in the contest with Argentina, that was close to decisive, for instance; Argentina had lost the only match it thought it could count on, and it was all downhill from there. This one was decisive for another reason: It was the one match in the France versus Switzerland tie that wasn't open-and-shut. It was nearly sure that Roger Federer would win his two singles matches (as indeed he did). It was at least equally certain that the Swiss would lose the other two (as they did). This match was much more interesting. Roger Federer is a very good doubles player, but he isn't quite as godlike as in singles, and in any case, it takes two to win in doubles. The French were much better off in that regard; most Frenchmen are pretty good doubles players. You could argue that neither Nicolas Escude nor Michael Llodra is as good as Federer -- but you'd be hard put to claim that Yves Allegro equals either Escude or Llodra. The Swiss managed breaks in the first and third sets (both against Escude, strangely enough), but the French had one break in every set -- the first three against Federer; they finally broke Allegro in set four, and that was that. Roger Federer couldn't win the whole tie single-handedly; the doubles settled that. And, two matches later, Nicolas Escude was again the hero, finishing off a 3-2 win for France. Unfortunately for France, they have to play Spain next, in Spain, on clay. They'll presumably have Sebastien Grosjean back, which will help a little. But Escude isn't Escude on clay. It's going to be quite a climb to advance from here." It was indeed quite a climb; France lost 4-1 to the eventual champions. On the other hand, they drove Federer out of Davis Cup. That might prove significant in future.

Five Years Ago: No ATP events played -- Davis Cup Week

Ten Years Ago: Again, it was Davis Cup week

Doris Loeffel
04-07-2005, 03:32 PM
It needs a bump ;)
Tanks TBE and Crimson for taking care of this

04-07-2005, 09:34 PM
Nice thread. :yeah: Thanks everyone! :hug:

04-07-2005, 10:07 PM
Five Years Ago: It wasn't often, in this era, that you didn't see Andre Agassi in a Miami final -- but you did this year. Agassi lost in the semifinal (one of only three times in a ten year span that he lost before the final), letting Pete Sampras beat Gustavo Kuerten in the final. It was, ironically, Sampras's last non-Slam title: He would win Wimbledon 2000, and that famous U. S. Open -- and that was it.

Ten Years Ago: Now this is more like it. Agassi beat Sampras in the Lipton final. It was "only" his second Miami title. He's won four more since.

Something I wasn't aware of about Pete. Thanks TBE! :hug:

04-21-2005, 03:49 PM
One Year Ago on the ATP:

April 19: Monte Carlo - First Round
Rainer Schuettler (4) def. Gustavo Kuerten 7-6(7-3) 6-3
At the time, we said, "If Rainer Schuettler rescues his year, this may be the match he remembers. If, for Gustavo Kuerten, this proves to be another lost year, again, this may be the contest he remembers.... It's a measure of just how badly things have been going for Schuettler that this actually matters to him. He came in at #91 in the Race, with 19 points. The seven he earns for this will translate into a significant improvement. Kuerten has been doing much better this year than Schuettler, and had finally won a clay title earlier this spring. This seemed as if it should have been open and shut. Instead -- this. Kuerten, under the odd ranking situation that applies this week, will see his point total fall by 70 points, and may fall out of the Top 20. It's almost certain that he'll lose his Top 20 standing in the Race. And he had a big chance at a big clay tournament, and look what he did with it." A year later -- well, Kuerten would need more surgery soon, and we'll get to Schuettler.

March 20: Monte Carlo - First Round
Alex Corretja def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (2) 6-2 6-3
At the time, we said, "There seems to be a rule that says, "Once a year, Juan Carlos Ferrero goes into an extreme funk." But he certainly picked a lousy time for it to happen! It's not just Monte Carlo; he lost rather too easily at Valencia last week, too. There seems to be something really messed up about his serve (a shoulder problem, maybe? Aftermath of his chicken pox?); he was getting lots of first serves in (80% in the second set), but he still was broken twice in each set. It was short, it was tame, it was shocking. The irony is, because of calendar shift, this doesn't directly affect Ferrero's point total; he is certain, for the moment, to stay #3. But he had won this event for two years running; this breaks his winning streak here at 12. More to the point, it costs him one of his most important chances of the year. He's lost any chance of making #1 before Roland Garros (which probably means any chance of making #1 this year). His #3 ranking is safe for now, and Guillermo Coria has big points of his own to defend in the next six weeks, including the Hamburg title. But Ferrero needs to get things on track -- fast. He's barely in the Top Ten in the Race, and may be out by the end of the week. The next big question is, What does this say for Corretja? Rankings-wise, it doesn't really help him; he lost first round at Monte Carlo last year, but that's off the rankings anyway. He had third round points from Barcelona to defend, so this is hardly better than a draw, points-wise. He's been playing a bit better this year than last, but only a bit. Will this encourage him to take another step, or was it just Ferrero stinking up the place?" It was, of course, Ferrero stinking up the place; he spent the rest of the year falling. The good news is, he has lots of room to move up in the coming weeks -- and he now seems to be in good enough form to do it.

April 21: Monte Carlo - Second Round
Juan Ignacio Chela def. Tommy Haas 6-4 1-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "Feliciano Lopez won't be making the Top 20 after all. Juan Ignacio Chela has seen to that.... In a tournament where being from Argentina seems to be the secret to success (there are four Argentines in the third round: Chela, Guillermo Coria, David Nalbandian, and Agustin Calleri...), Chela is probably the biggest surprise; he came in the lowest-ranked, with the weakest career credentials, and tired. But then, Tommy Haas was both tired and jet lagged. This was a contest between two guys who both had titles last week. At least Chela's had come in Europe. This still doesn't quite clinch a Top 20 spot for Chela; Calleri or even Andrei Pavel or Marat Safin could pass him. And he has to face Carlos Moya next -- not exactly a recipe for further success. But he is #11 in the Race, and the only one of last week's winners still standing, and is guaranteed to rise in the rankings. As will Haas, of course. #145 coming in, he had nothing to defend, this week or for the rest of the year; even a first round loss would have helped a little. By reaching the second round, he'll gain a dozen or more places." A year later, Haas is ranked higher than Chela -- and while his Houston title did come off, he didn't lose nearly as much as the Argentine.

April 22: Monte Carlo - Third Round
Tim Henman (6) def. Nicolas Massu (9) 3-6 6-4 6-3
At the time, we said, "Watching Tim Henman over the years, it seemed as if he has been playing back more and more as time has gone by. It seemed crazy. But maybe Henman knew what he was doing. It was one of those very close contests, with Henman just a little better in every category.... Could Massu have been thinking about his Top Ten chances again? That seems consistently to make him nervous. And he had a chance -- and it's over. Once again, he'll end up #11. The loss does mean that the Top Ten are set. At the end of the match, we know that Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Guillermo Coria, Andre Agassi, Rainer Schuettler, Henman, Carlos Moya, and David Nalbandian are in (though the order is still up in the air below the top four). Sebastien Grosjean clinched the #10 spot later in the day when Lleyton Hewitt lost. For Henman, the result doesn't make any immediate difference. He could still pass Rainer Schuettler, but David Nalbandian could still pass him. On the other hand, clay remains his worst surface; every point he earns is a plus, and a Masters quarterfinal is a pretty big bonus...." Indeed, ironic as it is, right now, it's his clay results (this plus his Roland Garros semifinal) that have been keeping him Top Ten. Those points are coming off now, and it will cost him. Can he do enough better at the remaining clay events to assure his top eight Wimbledon seed? It's by no means certain.

April 25: Monte Carlo - Final
Guillermo Coria (3) def. Rainer Schuettler (4) 6-2 6-1 6-3
At the time, we said, "Surely you aren't surprised, are you? It was, if anything, an even worse blowout than it looks; Schuettler was broken seven times in twelve service games; he himself broke only once.... The match took two hours, but that's mostly because these guys both run so hard.... What can we possibly say after a result like that? You've surely heard of Coria's clay court streak; he hasn't lost a match on dirt since Roland Garros. He remains #4 in the rankings -- and yet, he's #3 in the Race, and so close to Juan Carlos Ferrero it's getting scary. The only problem is, Coria is now sitting on seven titles, five of them optional (Stuttgart, Kitzbuhel, Sopot, Basel, and Buenos Aires). The only way he can increase his ranking next week is by winning a *bigger* title (e.g. replacing Buenos Aires, worth 175 points, with a final or title at Barcelona, worth 210/300 points). But it appears it won't matter. Juan Carlos Ferrero isn't playing next week. And Ferrero will see his points from Valencia 2003 come off.... So, by winning Monte Carlo, Coria assured that he will be #3 in the world next week. For Schuettler, as for Coria, winning or losing didn't really mean anything; he had made it to #5 either way. And he can't really have expected to beat Coria -- hoped, maybe, but not expected. Not on clay. The triumph for him was getting this far. It put him at a career-high #5, it put him in his first Masters final, it gave him his best clay result ever -- and it brought him back to life. He came in at #91 in the Race. He more than tripled his Race points, and is Top 20." This was, ironically, the high point for both players, or nearly. Schuettler has done almost nothing since, and is headed out of the Top 50; Coria never went above #3, lost the Roland Garros final he should have won, and really hasn't been quite the same since, despite his heroics at Monte Carlo 2005.

Five Years Ago: Finally, finally Cedric Pioline had his big day. Having been notorious early in his career for all the finals he lost, and then for winning four little titles but no big ones, at age 30 he picked up the title at Monte Carlo for his first Masters win. It proved to be the last title of his career -- but his numbers still look a lot better than they had before.

Ten Years Ago: Another week, another clay title for Thomas Muster -- in this case, Barcelona. The surprising thing to recall is that, in those days, they still had hardcourt events in late April. Jim Courier beat Andre Agassi in the Tokyo final.

04-27-2005, 05:13 AM
Beautifully done as always, Egg.

04-29-2005, 02:15 AM
April 26: Barcelona - First Round
Albert Montanes def. Albert Costa (14) 6-4 7-6(7-3)
At the time, we said, "And so we once again face the interesting question, Is Albert Montanes as hot as he looks, or is Albert Costa as cold as he looks? Both are relevant. Costa came into this match a mere #64 in the ATP Race; he has not been having a good year at all, and clay hasn't been doing much to revive him. Montanes, formally, is even worse off; he came in at #73 in the Race. But that fails to notice how well Montanes has been doing lately, with a final at Valencia that moved him from outside the Top 100 to inside the Top 80. Whatever the explanation, it seems safe to say that Montanes is having his best stretch since 2002. At this time last year, he was in a horrid slump -- after reading the semifinal at Vina del Mar, he went on to lose eight straight matches before finally winning a qualifying match at Rome -- after which he lost three more matches. He doesn't have a main draw win to defend until Amersfoort. And after that, he has only one semifinal and one quarterfinal to defend for the rest of the year. Talk about opportunity! And it appears he's finally ready to take advantage of it. A first round win here doesn't make much difference -- but obviously he has his foot in the door. Costa came in with third round points to defend, but even for a guy struggling to stay Top 40, third round points at an optional event don't matter much. He obviously won't be gaining ground -- but he probably won't lose much, either." A year later, neither player has in fact moved much. So far this year, it looks as if Costa is in better form. But we don't have much to base that on. This wasn't an omen of much of anything.

March 27: Munich - First Round
Alexander Waske (Q) def Goran Ivanisevic (WC) 6-4 7-6(7-0)
At the time, we said, "It's been a long time for Alexander Waske. Very, very long. This was his first ATP match of the year. Which is bad enough. But it was his first ATP win since -- Munich last year. He beat Adrian Voinea before losing to Nikolay Davydenko at this event in 2003, after which the darkness fell. He played 15 more ATP events in 2003. He had a few qualifying wins (at Rome, Roland Garros, the U. S. Open, Bucharest, Vienna, and Basel -- nine qualifying wins in all), but he either lost in qualifying or fell in the first round of the main draw. Think he's relieved? It will even do him some good in the rankings. Not much, but we're talking about a guy who has seen his ranking fall to #194. The fact that he qualified means that he earns an additional five Entry points. That will probably gain him two or three spots.... comeback this year started well, of course, with wins in two tournaments early on. But he hasn't won a match since the beginning of April. Some of the losses -- including this one -- have been embarrassing. At the very least, it's probably time for some thinking about what's happening." And, indeed, this was just another step toward the end for Ivanisevic -- and proved not to do much to get Waske out of his slump. Worse, it gave him points to defend this week, and he failed.

April 28: Barcelona - Second Round
Marc Lopez (WC) def. Felix Mantilla (15) 6-4 7-6(7-4)
At the time, we said, "It's hard to believe that Marc Lopez is still only 21. It seems as if he's been around for years. What we are remembering, of course, is his first semi-big year of 2001, when he made the Stuttgart semifinal with wins over Guillermo Coria, Sergi Bruguera, and Alberto Martin (not really big wins at the time, but they stick with you). That was just one of those fluke things, though. He won only one more ATP match in 2001, managed only two wins in all of 2002 (one of them at Barcelona, to be sure), and had only two more last year (though those two did include his first Slam win). This year, he seems finally to have turned the corner. He already has a quarterfinal, and he came here with a Race standing of #106. His entry ranking is up to #111. This isn't going to put him in the Top 100 in the Rankings (it may get him there in the Race), but it really looks as if he'll make it some time this spring. And he picks on a guy who really could have used a win about now. In the short term, Mantilla won't be hurt; he reached the second round at Barcelona last year also. But when we say short term, we mean [i]very short term. Mantilla's title at Rome comes off next week, and he really doesn't look ready to defend. He's a feeble #85 in the Race. He's still a respectable #36 in the rankings -- but more than half his points come from Rome. Lose early next week and he could fall to around #95. This was his last chance to give himself at least a little cushion. And he lost to a guy who is ranked below #100 who still has only one career semifinal to his name. Things don't look good." We'll have reason to talk about Mantilla next week. As for Lopez, this was just about his high point. He has been pretty invisible since, and isn't even close to the Top 100 any more.

April 29: Barcelona - Third Round
Gaston Gaudio (13) def. Carlos Moya (2) 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "The more time Gaston Gaudio spends in Spain, the more hated he tends to become. And he's loving it.... This was a fascinating contest anyway, with last year's Barcelona winner (Moya) taking on the 2002 winner (Gaudio). Gaudio has never really been able to build on that success of two years ago; he remains pretty much your standard rock-steady clay player who usually finds himself ranked somewhere between #20 and #40. Moya said beforehand that it would be tough; we'd think more of his prophetic powers if that hadn't been so obvious. It's a big loss for Moya, too; this is as big as an optional event gets. Moya has quite a few good results on his resume, but this was the largest. The loss doesn't actually endanger his Top Ten ranking -- yet. But Moya had been a strong #9. Now he's a much weaker #9. This seriously affects Moya's chances of earning the #8 seed at Roland Garros; at this point, he looks more likely to fall in the coming weeks than to rise. And the possibility cannot be entirely discounted that this will cost him his Top Ten spot.... For Gaudio, this doesn't mean much, at least points-wise. Last year, he made the quarterfinal also, so he's right back where he started." Our worries about Moya proved unfounded, because he won Rome. But Gaudio -- well, he had big things in his future, and though he hasn't won a required event since Roland Garros, he remains a much stronger player than he ever was before.

May 2: Barcelona - Final
Tommy Robredo (8) def. Gaston Gaudio (13) 6-3 4-6 6-2 3-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "Tommy Robredo really knows how to make the hometown fans happy. Not only did he give them a Spanish winner at Barcelona, but he gave them a great match, too. What more could they possibly ask? Far better than last year's final which ended in Marat Safin's retirement.... It looked as if it would be quicker than it was.... But his failure to win quickly came back to haunt him in the fourth set; he lost it as the three hour mark approached, and his leg apparently was starting to hurt with cramps; he would have it treated late in the final set. But he managed a break in game six of the fifth set, and closed out the win after three and three-quarter hours. And with that win, he picks up the second title of his career, and much the bigger of the two; the first came almost three years ago at Sopot. He also re-asserts his ranking: He's now just short of the Top Ten in the Race, and back in the Top 20 in the rankings. Gaudio doesn't win his second Barcelona title, extending his title-less drought to a full two years, but he does have his best final since that Barcelona title, after falling in the quarterfinal last year. He came in a rather depressing #39. This should move him above #30. Unfortunately, he has third round points at Rome, and a semifinal at Hamburg, so he has a long way to go to earn a Roland Garros seed. The good news is, he has nothing bigger than a quarterfinal after Roland Garros, and even the quarterfinals were at optional events, so if he has any sort of ranking at all once Hamburg is over, he has a good chance to move up in the second half of the year." A year later, how things have changed! Robredo is a solid Top 20 player (though he's likely to slip a bit when these points come off), but it's Gaudio who is Top Five and a Slam champion -- and his results have been better than Robredo's even if you take away Roland Garros.

Five Years Ago: Back then, they were still young guns: Marat Safin and Juan Carlos Ferrero each had one title. Safin picked up #2, beating Ferrero at Barcelona; it was his biggest title to date, and his first on clay. It remains to this day his best clay title.

Ten Years Ago: Boris Becker had the best clay result of his life: He made the Monte Carlo final. But Thomas Muster was waiting there, and took home clay title number we've-lost-track-already of 1995. (Actually, it was #4.) Meanwhile, because the ATP still scheduled non-clay events in late April, Greg Rusedski was winning his second career title, and first on hardcourts; he beat Lars Rehmann in the final at Seoul.

05-05-2005, 08:15 PM
May 3: Rome - First Round
Mariano Zabaleta def. Juan Ignacio Chela (16) 6-4 6-2
At the time, we said, "We told you Juan Ignacio Chela had a tough draw.... On paper, this wasn't all that big a challenge. Mariano Zabaleta came in ranked #40, making him actually one of the lower-ranked players in the field. But he's an Argentine, and he likes clay, and he was due. Whereas Chela has been playing well lately, and may still have been tired from winning Estoril and playing so much since. In any case, it was the second-easiest match of the day, and far and away the easiest upset. And it means that Chela will once again be falling just short of the Top 20. He came in at #22, but tied with #21 Agustin Calleri and #23 Feliciano Lopez in safe points. Calleri was out. Lopez is inconsistent and probably weaker on clay than the other two. The #20 player, Mardy Fish, wasn't in the field. This was Chela's big chance. And he's out easily. It's far too early to know where Chela will end up, since Lopez still hasn't played and there are four active players within 100 points of Chela. All we can say is that he won't be rising. He might well fall. The indirect beneficiary is thus Fish, whose #20 ranking becomes much more secure. Lopez or Marat Safin must reach the quarterfinal to pass him; anyone else must reach the semifinal. He isn't safe -- but he's safer. For Zabaleta, of course, this is just a first round win, and he was defending second round points anyway. We'd guess he'll gain one or two spots, but it's too soon to tell. The next few matches will be much more significant." A year later, this doesn't seem to have made much difference to anyone -- except Fish, who has fallen badly. We really can't think of anything to add, except that Zabaleta will be falling fast with these points coming off.

May 4: Rome - First Round
Guillermo Canas def. Andy Roddick (2) 7-6(9-7) 6-1
At the time, we said, "If you're going to ambush Andy Roddick, clay is the place to do it. Especially if you can get into his head. And Guillermo Canas, at his best, can get into anybody's head. Lately, it's true, he hasn't been at his best -- but he's managed to be Top 30 in the Race even so, and every tournament has to help settle him down, and he does love clay. It's one of the curiosities of modern tennis. On the women's side, there is a clear tendency for players to prefer modern (hardcourt, indoor hard, carpet) or traditional (clay, grass) surfaces. It used to be that men just liked things fast or slow. But we're building up a class of male players who, like the women, care more about modern versus traditional than fast versus slow. Roddick certainly stands high on that list. He loves hardcourts. He's a bit weaker on grass (so far, at least), and clay still gives him fits. Yes, he has titles on the stuff. But his record at the clay Masters is still an unimpressive 10-7, and actually getting worse (he was 8-3 in 2002, 2-3 last year, 0-1 this year), and he still has a losing record at Roland Garros. Someone commented that Brad Gilbert hated clay, and seems to be sharing that attitude with Roddick. It's hard to argue. It's even harder to argue that Roger Federer will be #1 next week. This easily clinched it. Roddick's loss combined with Federer's win over Jonas Bjorkman means that Federer now is guaranteed at least a 350 point lead over Roddick on next week's rankings.... Canas came in ranked #80, and of course he earns only first round points. But he should move above #75 as a result of the win. And he's in a section with another clay-hating seed: His potential Round of Sixteen opponent is Lleyton Hewitt." A year later, Canas is Top 15, pushing for the Top Ten, and you could argue that it started here. Roddick is no longer threatening #1 -- but he did win Houston again, which may be promising. Though it never meant much before.

May 5: Rome - Second Round
Mariano Zabaleta def. Felix Mantilla 7-5 6-3
At the time, we said, "You knew it was coming, really. The question was not 'if' but 'when.' The answer, obviously, is 'way too soon.' Having barely survived the first round, defending Rome champion Felix Mantilla is out in the second round. It's not really a surprise -- not even really an upset. Coming into this match, Felix Mantilla was ranked ahead of Mariano Zabaleta -- but barely, #36 versus #40. If you were to rank them based on results-other-than-Rome, it wasn't even close. Though neither had been doing well this year; Zabaleta came in #71 in the Race, Mantilla #82.... Mantilla... will of course be dropping like a stone. We can't yet know where Mantilla will end up -- but it will almost certainly be between #85 and #90. It's been three years since he has been ranked that low. And he's almost 30 now -- a tough place for a guy who makes his living mostly by running. Especially since the clay season, in terms of points to be awarded, is about 40% over." Since the loss, Mantilla has managed to regain a little ground, but it still looks as if Rome 2003 will be the last really big result of his career.

May 6: Rome - Third Round
Nicolas Massu (8) def. Marat Safin 6-3 7-5
At the time, we said, "It's never going to get easier for Nicolas Massu. One more time he goes for the Top Ten. He needs one win, against Mariano Zabaleta. Argentine versus Chilean. Should be motivating, should it not? There isn't much to say about the actual match. Safin had to play two matches on this day, and Massu one, and even though Safin took care of Paradorn Srichaphan pretty easily, it was still two matches. On clay. The win leaves Massu almost free and clear, rankings-wise. There is no active player within 200 points of him. If he can win his next match, he will overtake Sebastien Grosjean, and he will almost certainly reach #10 as a result. For the first time, and finally. He needs to hurry, too, because pretty soon he'll have to start defending things. Had we known how many times Massu would have ended up one win away from the Top Ten, we'd have started some sort of a Massu Watch to keep track. Sadly, it didn't occur to us; we had no idea he would come apart so completely (he came in a feeble #50 in the Race, though he's increased his Race total by more than half at this event). But he's been #11 since Indian Wells, and had a few chances before that (he hit the Top 15 to stay after Madrid last year), so this is surely at least the third time. Can he be at-least-fourth-time lucky? The good news for Marat Safin is, of course, that anything he does helps him, since he has nothing to defend for the rest of the year except a handful of losses. He came in at #25. He is assured of moving up -- possibly as high as #21, and probably no worse than #23. He might well have hit the Top 20 had he won this match. But time and tide, and especially rain delays, answer to no man." And so, naturally, Massu lost his next match, though he would eventually get over Top Ten-itis. Staying healthy after that was another problem. Safin, meanwhile, entered Rome this year with yet another chance to build up some points. And he once again failed.

May 10: Rome - Final
Carlos Moya (6) def David Nalbandian (5) 6-3 6-3 6-1
We can't tell you just what we wrote about this match at the time; this was the week we shifted from a combined Men's and Women's Pro Tour News to separate publications, and somehow (probably due to a naming error) the Men's News for this day got trashed. In any case, it was a routine match, and briefly made Moya a Roland Garros favorite -- though in fact it was Nalbandian who did the greater damage. A year later, though, the big news is that both finalists will lose their Top Ten spots this week.

Five Years Ago: It was, almost, the pinnacle for Magnus Norman. He won his one and only Masters title, beating Gustavo Kuerten at Rome. From there, he would go on to the Roland Garros final, and then the long slow (Hingis-cursed?) decline.

Ten Years Ago: Wayne Ferreira by this time had eight titles -- but nothing on clay. He finally solved that by beating Michael Stich at Munich. In the almost ten years Ferreira would play after that, he never won another clay title.

05-08-2005, 05:14 AM
Magnus Norman , *sigh* I miss him

Thanks TBE :)

05-08-2005, 01:53 PM
The real story is how this is actually one year ago, though it seems like it was only weeks ago!

05-19-2005, 05:16 PM
May 10: Hamburg - First Round
Marat Safin def. Sebastien Grosjean (8) 7-6(8-6) 7-5
At the time, we said, "Now we wait. If Nicolas Massu wins his second round match, he is (probably) Top Ten. If he doesn't make the third round, then whatever else happens, the Chilean won't be moving above his current #11.... This wasn't the day's toughest match.... It wasn't the biggest upset; Florian Mayer's win over Jiri Novak gets that distinction. It wasn't even the biggest surprise.... But it does have the biggest consequences. For one thing, it absolutely guarantees that the top eight seeds at Roland Garros, assuming all of them play, will be Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Guillermo Coria, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Rainer Schuettler, Carlos Moya, Andre Agassi, and either David Nalbandian or Tim Henman.... As hinted above, this is likely to cost Grosjean his #10 ranking -- though many of the players who had theoretical chances to overtake him (Srichaphan, Philippoussis, Novak) are already out, leaving Massu as the one serious contender. It's less certain what this will do for Safin. He still isn't Top 20 -- quite. But one more win might well do it, since it would move him past Mardy Fish." A year later, things have changed a lot: Safin is Top Five, and Grosjean isn't even Top 20. The change didn't start here, though -- Safin had a miserable summer.

May 11: Hamburg - First Round
Roger Federer (1) def. Gaston Gaudio 6-1 5-7 6-4
At the time, we said, "Once again Gaston Gaudio left it at the optional events. You can often tell a lot about a player by looking at his entry in the ATP Media Guide. For most top performers, they list career results at both Slams and the Masters Series. If they omit the latter, it's usually because there isn't much there. In Gaudio's case, he has two Masters semifinals. Think what the rest must be like if they didn't show his event-by-event results. Unfortunately, the one time he didn't leave it there was at Hamburg 2003. He made the semifinal, equalling his best-ever required event result. It was the biggest result on his record coming into this year's event. Naturally, this loss will hurt. Gaudio came in ranked #34 -- which, in this age of injury withdrawals, gave him perhaps two chances in five of a Roland Garros seed. And Roland Garros is the only Slam where he has done anything at all (he has exactly one career win at Wimbledon, and two at the U. S. Open; he's done a little better on the slow Rebound Ace of Melbourne, but only a little). But this loss costs him nearly a quarter of his points. From #34, he will fall out of the Top 40 -- we'd guess he'll end up around #45, though it's too early to be entirely sure. In any case, he won't be seeded. And the clay season is almost over. Odds are, he won't be seeded at too many hardcourt events, either. Roger Federer remains a bit of an enigma on clay. He won this tournament two years ago -- it was, in fact, his first Masters, and his first-ever clay title. He also won Munich on clay last year. Obviously he can win on the stuff. But he has also shown a much greater tendency to melt down on dirt. His own explanation was surprising: 'The problem with clay is, which is strange, that I have problems returning on clay. I remember doing a practice camp when I was 15 years old and my coach asked everyone what is the most difficult for you when you start the clay court season. I said the return. He said "What are you talking about, it's easy, you have enough time, it's easy to return." For me it's kind of difficult.' This is a very nice little win after a disappointment at Rome. It doesn't make any difference right now -- he obviously will stay at #1 -- but the win has to be good for his confidence. And if he can add on points on his worst surface, that will obviously reduce the pressure once things shift to more comfortable courts." Federer, to be sure, went on to win Hamburg. What's interesting is to think how completely Gaudio turned things around in the two weeks from Hamburg to Roland Garros! And even since, he's been a much stronger player -- he will probably be close to the Top 15 even if he loses first round in Paris.

May 12: Hamburg - Second Round
Andrei Pavel def. Tim Henman (5) 6-2 6-2
At the time, we said, "It was a nice time for revenge. Last year, Tim Henman spoiled Andrei Pavel's Big Comeback by winning Paris. But Pavel got him back but good. Because this loss costs Henman the #8 seed at Roland Garros. As a matter of fact, this settles all significant contests in the Top Ten. Only two questions are still open: Will Guillermo Coria or Juan Carlos Ferrero be #3 next week, and Who will be #10? The top three Roland Garros seeding tiers are set. Roger Federer will be #1, and Andy Roddick #2. Ferrero and Coria will be #3 and #4, with the order depending on whether Coria makes the Hamburg final or not. #5 through #8 will be Carlos Moya, Andre Agassi, Rainer Schuettler, and David Nalbandian, in that order. Henman will be #9. Sebastien Grosjean is likely to be #10, but it's still too early to say with certainty. It's ironic to note that, even though Pavel is on the verge of the Top Ten in the Race, this win does his ranking no good at all. #22 he came in, and #22 he stays. That's because Marat Safin, #21 coming in, keeps winning also. One of those two will be Top 20 next week (displacing Mardy Fish). Whoever lasts longer will get it, with ties going to Safin.... The list of Roland Garros seeds is almost complete even at the lower levels. The big remaining contests are for #12.....#16... #24... and of course the final seed." A year later, Pavel hasn't been able to defend -- but Henman had the best clay season of his career. Now we wait and see if he can match that.

May 13: Hamburg - Third Round
Guillermo Coria (2) def. Tommy Robredo (16) 7-6(7-2) 6-4
At the time, we said, "It's now been scientifically demonstrated: The human brain is wired to misunderstand the laws of probability. As a result, statisticians spend a lot of their time listing fallacies: Things people believe should be true even though the math clearly states otherwise. The top fallacy on this list is probably the Gambler's Fallacy: That Life Evens Out. More precisely, that if a random event has tended to produce an unexpectedly high rate of a certain outcome (say, having a coin land 'heads' eight times in ten tosses), then future tests will cause the overall average to return to normal (in the above example, by throwing about eight 'tails' in the next ten tosses). It is fallacious. Truly random events aren't influenced by the past; even if you toss twenty heads in a row with an honest coin, the odds remain even that you'll toss a head, or a tail, the next time. This has an application, of sorts, to Guillermo Coria. There are people who are saying he's 'due' to lose; he's used up his wins; the law of averages is after him. The law of averages never goes after anyone. Probability is the future, not the past. If anything, the fact that Guillermo Coria hasn't lost a clay match since Roland Garros increases the odds that he won't lose his next match, either. A more serious consideration is the fact that he played three sets in both of his earlier matches. If he had been due to lose for any reason, it would be tiredness, not 'due-ness.' But, obviously, he wasn't tired enough. Robredo served for the first set, but Coria saved it, and then took charge. And so the beat goes on. Coria is up to 29 straight clay wins. And that means that Coria still has a chance for the #3 seed at Roland Garros. Two more wins, and he gets it. And he won't have to face a seed to get them. Are we going to bet against him? No way. It was a tough loss for Robredo. Had he won, he would have been the #16 seed at Roland Garros. As it is, he's #17 unless someone withdraws." Coria in fact got his wins, though he did finally run out of luck in the final. Since then, he's been human. Of course, some of that was the lack of clay events played....

May 16: Hamburg - Final
Roger Federer (1) def. Guillermo Coria (2) 4-6 6-4 6-2 6-3
At the time, we said, "What a way for things to end: The #1 player in the world against the #1 clay player. The 2003 champion against the 2002 champion. The Race #1 against the player who would have been #2 had he won.... Coria was perhaps due for a loss; he'd struggled in several of his early matches. And Federer, apart from the first set, was probably playing his best clay tennis ever, including back when he won this tournament the first time. It took him a little while to adjust to Coria's speed and touch, but once he did -- watch out. In fairness to Coria, he is said to have had a blister on his right hand. In the short term, this doesn't have much effect; Federer was guaranteed the #1 ranking from the day Andy Roddick withdrew from Hamburg, and Coria had clinched the #3 ranking by reaching the final. The long-term effects are more interesting. Federer's lead in the rankings over Roddick is now effectively unassailable at Roland Garros (Roddick's only hope is to win the whole thing and have Federer lose very early), and Federer is ahead in safe points even after Wimbledon comes off. And he's looking more and more like a Roland Garros contender. Yes, people have said that before, given his style and his previous Hamburg title -- but that first Hamburg title was altogether a different matter. The first time, he beat a slumping Nicolas Lapentti, Bohdan Ulihrach, Adrian Voinea, a messed-up Gustavo Kuerten, Max Mirnyi (on clay, remember), and Marat Safin. A good result -- but compare that to this year, in which he beat Fernando Gonzalez and Carlos Moya and now Coria. Clearly a very different thing. We wouldn't go so far as to call Federer the Roland Garros favorite -- but he does seem to have converted the Elite Three of Coria, Ferrero, and Moya into an elite four. And he's probably the healthiest of the lot.... Coria's clay winning streak ends at 31 -- still arguably the most impressive clay achievement since the heyday of Thomas Muster. And he is still #3 in the world. But he had the chance to move up to #2 in the Race, and failed. And the aura of invincibility will be faded just a little. Roland Garros really did just become much more interesting." Federer, as it turned out, did not make noise at Roland Garros. But how might the French Open final have turned out had Coria won this match and gone into the Roland Garros final unbeaten on clay?

Five Years Ago: No big surprise about who won Hamburg: Gustavo Kuerten completed the career sweep of the four major clay titles. More surprising was the guy he beat in that final: Marat Safin, who scored the best clay result of his life.

Ten Years Ago: Time once again to praise and lament Andrei Medvedev. He beat Goran Ivanisevic in the Hamburg final -- his only title of 2005, but his second straight Hamburg title. He'd win it one more time (1997) before he went bad.

05-19-2005, 05:17 PM
May 17: St. Poelten - First Round
Nenad Zimonjic (Q) def. Andre Agassi (1) 6-2 7-6(8-6)
At the time, we said, "This is one of those results that brought the moaners out in full force: 'Agassi is washed up!' 'Worst loss of his life!' 'Retire now!' It all seems a little strong. Yes, Nenad Zimonjic is mostly a doubles specialist, playing his first main draw singles match of the year. But he's not completely inept as a singles player; he won the Kiev Challenger in 1998 and made the final of the Belgrade Challenger in 2002 (losing to Mario Ancic), and he does have a few wins over players we've heard of, such as Julien Boutter. Though this is of course by far the biggest. That's not to deny that the real reason Andre Agassi lost is Agassi. But it's worth remembering that he hasn't played a competitive match since Miami, and hasn't played a clay match all year. Zimonjic may not be winning, but at least he's been hanging around clay. There is no particular reason to fault Agassi's current level of ability. The primary fault, in all probability, is his current level of scheduling. He didn't want to bother with clay -- and, evidently, it didn't want to bother with him. In terms of rankings, this makes little difference. Agassi of course didn't play the week before Roland Garros last year either; he actually gains five Entry points, not that they matter. Zimonjic will gain a few ranking spots, but not enough to put him on anybody's radar. The real effect is surely that Agassi, whose biggest problem this week was lack of clay matches, won't get any real warming up this week either." And that may well have mattered, since Agassi crashed and burned at Roland Garros. But he took care of it this year, with a good showing at Rome.

May 18: St. Poelten - First Round DOUBLES
Leach/MacPhie def. (4) Fyrstenberg/Matkowski 6-3 3-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "The ageless one is at it again. Mark this down, because Rick Leach is growing old in Martina Navratilova years: He's 39 years old, playing with a partner who himself just turned 32 a week ago, and here he is still winning. And not just a few matches here or there, either. Leach and MacPhie already won Scottsdale this year. And this isn't a bad win, either. Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski have two titles in the past year -- both on clay, in fact -- and quite a few good victories. They are #40/#41 in the world, and still climbing. In terms of points, this of course doesn't mean much. Leach came in at #45, and quarterfinal points aren't going to make that much difference. But, at this rate, Leach will be Top 50 -- at least -- when he turns 40 in December." That was then. Leach has been playing this year -- he even played singles qualifying at St. Poelten this week! -- but without noteworthy success. Could it perhaps be time to re-retire?

May 19: Casablanca - Second Round
Julien Benneteau def. Julien Boutter 2-6 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "In a small and perverse way, this represents progress for Julien Boutter. The key words, though, are 'small' and 'perverse.' In his first match back from injury, he lost. In his second, he won in three sets over an absolute nobody. This time, he's out -- but in three sets against someone we've at least heard of.... Barely heard of. Julien Benneteau came in at #103 in the ATP Race, which is actually slightly better than his entry ranking of #109. His record this year, with one exception, has been less than inspiring. He had only three ATP main draws before this week: first round loss at Adelaide as a qualifier, fourth round at Miami as a qualifier, first round loss as a wildcard at Monte Carlo. And even that big run at Miami featured some luck and injured opponents. Last year was worse: He never made it past a second round. Before that, you don't want to know. That makes this a milestone for the 22-year-old: it's his first ATP quarterfinal. True, it comes at a very weak event, but hey, this is the ATP; points are points. Last year, Benneteau lost first round in St. Poelten qualifying. It appears this will put him back in the Top 100 -- probably around #95, which threatens his career high (he was #95 after Miami, hit #93 the week after that, and then crashed back out of the Top 100).... Boutter was last year's Casablanca champion, but those points went off weeks ago. Just making the second round was some slight help; he came in at #574 and will gain -- well, something. And he has nothing but opening-round losses to defend for the rest of the year; his real problem will be getting back in form before his injury ranking runs out. The question we can't answer yet is, How much progress does this represent? We'll be interested to find out." It turned out to represent very little; he's back to being hurt again. Given his age, one has to suspect he's done.

May 20: Casablanca - Quarterfinal
Dominik Hrbaty (1) def. Oscar Hernandez (8) 6-3 6-0
At the time, we said, "It's been a surprisingly simple test, so far this year: Put Dominik Hrbaty in an optional event, especially a weak one, and he's trouble. Put him in a required event, and he is in trouble.... The numbers really do stand out like a sore thumb. Hrbaty came into Casablanca with 114 optional event points (now up to almost 130). That's out of 152 total Race points on Hrbaty's tally sheet. Only one other player (Carlos Moya) exceeds that optional point figure, or even comes close to it -- and Moya has 334 Race points, so his 138 optional points isn't excessive. Hrbaty seems to be intent on finding out just how high a guy can go without doing anything significant at the required events. He has three titles already (Adelaide, Auckland, Marseille), and now is in another semifinal. He hardly even had to break a sweat to do it; he himself admitted that Hernandez didn't play his best. For the moment, he ties Andre Agassi for the #8 spot in the ATP Race. In terms of the Entry rankings, it's less important; Hrbaty really doesn't have much room for additional optional results. A title would help him some, but a semifinal really doesn't matter. Still, he's the only Top 100 player left in the field. And he likes slow surfaces.... Hrbaty really will slow down in the months ahead. For starters, he isn't likely to be as successful on faster surfaces. Plus he will soon have to face the Younes El Aynaoui lesson: he can't keep on adding optional points forever; the ATP doesn't allow it. But it's impressive while it lasts, isn't it?" And fact this was about the limit; his second half didn't match his first. But he's been doing better in required events this year, so he's managed to stay Top 20.

May 23: St. Poelten - Final
Filippo Volandri (8) def. Xavier Malisse (Q) 6-1 6-4
At the time, we said, "Fortunately for Filippo Volandri, the nerves hit him after it was almost too late to matter. He was up 6-1 4-0 -- and lost four straight games. But he won the next two, and in the process earned his first career title. It came at a good time, too, since Volandri hadn't been having a very good year to this point. It wasn't actually bad -- he came in at #57 in the ATP Race -- but of course he'd had those two Masters quarterfinals to defend, and had failed in both cases, and had watched his ranking fall from #42 two months ago to #61 this week. This won't replace all the points he's lost, but he's on the right side of #50 again. And, of course, he has the monkey off his back: 'I feel unbelievably good. I felt very emotional, feeling really good. I played unbelievable tennis for an hour and then maybe relaxed too much. Finally in the last two games I found everything I had to win two great games.' Now if only Malisse could get the monkey off his back. This was his first final in three years -- but he lost it. Again. He's lost all five of his career finals. The only consolation -- if consolation it is -- is that he's taken some real steps to salvage his year. He came in at 7-11 in 2004, and a feeble #87 in the ATP Race. This will bring him up to 11-12, and gain him thirty-odd Race spots. And he'll be back above #60. Now if he'd just remember to sign up for tournaments on time, so he wouldn't have to qualify for events where he would otherwise have been in line for a seed...." At least he solved one thing: He finally won a title. As for Volandri, it seems he's just a slow starter. In 2005, he didn't really wake up until Hamburg. That gave him enough points that he'll probably stay on the good side of #40 even after this comes off.

Five Years Ago: Andrei Pavel won his second career title (and first on clay), beating Andrew Ilie at St. Poelten. It was the first time Ilie lost a final (he had two previous titles).

Ten Years Ago: It's not often that something big happens the week before Roland Garros, but this might qualify as an exception: Marcelo Rios won his first career title, beating Marcelo Filippini at Barcelona.

05-19-2005, 08:44 PM
"It turned out to represent very little; he's back to being hurt again. Given his age, one has to suspect he's done." No shit! Did someone neglect to mention to them that Boutter has already retired?

05-19-2005, 08:53 PM
One year ago.... ...
Roger had fewer Race points than he does now but a Slam under his belt
Marat had about the same points than he does now but no Slam under his belt
05-20-2005, 09:24 AM
One year ago.... ...
Roger had fewer Race points than he does now but a Slam under his belt
Marat had about the same points than he does now but no Slam under his belt
Marat won the US Open in 2000, jackass
05-20-2005, 09:26 AM
May 17: St. Poelten - First Round
Nenad Zimonjic (Q) def. Andre Agassi (1) 6-2 7-6(8-6)
At the time, we said, "This is one of those results that brought the moaners out in full force: 'Agassi is washed up!' 'Worst loss of his life!' 'Retire now!' It all seems a little strong. Yes, Nenad Zimonjic is mostly a doubles specialist, playing his first main draw singles match of the year. But he's not completely inept as a singles player; he won the Kiev Challenger in 1998 and made the final of the Belgrade Challenger in 2002 (losing to Mario Ancic), and he does have a few wins over players we've heard of, such as Julien Boutter. Though this is of course by far the biggest. That's not to deny that the real reason Andre Agassi lost is Agassi. But it's worth remembering that he hasn't played a competitive match since Miami, and hasn't played a clay match all year. Zimonjic may not be winning, but at least he's been hanging around clay. There is no particular reason to fault Agassi's current level of ability. The primary fault, in all probability, is his current level of scheduling. He didn't want to bother with clay -- and, evidently, it didn't want to bother with him. In terms of rankings, this makes little difference. Agassi of course didn't play the week before Roland Garros last year either; he actually gains five Entry points, not that they matter. Zimonjic will gain a few ranking spots, but not enough to put him on anybody's radar. The real effect is surely that Agassi, whose biggest problem this week was lack of clay matches, won't get any real warming up this week either." And that may well have mattered, since Agassi crashed and burned at Roland Garros. But he took care of it this year, with a good showing at Rome.

May 18: St. Poelten - First Round DOUBLES
Leach/MacPhie def. (4) Fyrstenberg/Matkowski 6-3 3-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "The ageless one is at it again. Mark this down, because Rick Leach is growing old in Martina Navratilova years: He's 39 years old, playing with a partner who himself just turned 32 a week ago, and here he is still winning. And not just a few matches here or there, either. Leach and MacPhie already won Scottsdale this year. And this isn't a bad win, either. Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski have two titles in the past year -- both on clay, in fact -- and quite a few good victories. They are #40/#41 in the world, and still climbing. In terms of points, this of course doesn't mean much. Leach came in at #45, and quarterfinal points aren't going to make that much difference. But, at this rate, Leach will be Top 50 -- at least -- when he turns 40 in December." That was then. Leach has been playing this year -- he even played singles qualifying at St. Poelten this week! -- but without noteworthy success. Could it perhaps be time to re-retire?

May 19: Casablanca - Second Round
Julien Benneteau def. Julien Boutter 2-6 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "In a small and perverse way, this represents progress for Julien Boutter. The key words, though, are 'small' and 'perverse.' In his first match back from injury, he lost. In his second, he won in three sets over an absolute nobody. This time, he's out -- but in three sets against someone we've at least heard of.... Barely heard of. Julien Benneteau came in at #103 in the ATP Race, which is actually slightly better than his entry ranking of #109. His record this year, with one exception, has been less than inspiring. He had only three ATP main draws before this week: first round loss at Adelaide as a qualifier, fourth round at Miami as a qualifier, first round loss as a wildcard at Monte Carlo. And even that big run at Miami featured some luck and injured opponents. Last year was worse: He never made it past a second round. Before that, you don't want to know. That makes this a milestone for the 22-year-old: it's his first ATP quarterfinal. True, it comes at a very weak event, but hey, this is the ATP; points are points. Last year, Benneteau lost first round in St. Poelten qualifying. It appears this will put him back in the Top 100 -- probably around #95, which threatens his career high (he was #95 after Miami, hit #93 the week after that, and then crashed back out of the Top 100).... Boutter was last year's Casablanca champion, but those points went off weeks ago. Just making the second round was some slight help; he came in at #574 and will gain -- well, something. And he has nothing but opening-round losses to defend for the rest of the year; his real problem will be getting back in form before his injury ranking runs out. The question we can't answer yet is, How much progress does this represent? We'll be interested to find out." It turned out to represent very little; he's back to being hurt again. Given his age, one has to suspect he's done.

May 20: Casablanca - Quarterfinal
Dominik Hrbaty (1) def. Oscar Hernandez (8) 6-3 6-0
At the time, we said, "It's been a surprisingly simple test, so far this year: Put Dominik Hrbaty in an optional event, especially a weak one, and he's trouble. Put him in a required event, and he is in trouble.... The numbers really do stand out like a sore thumb. Hrbaty came into Casablanca with 114 optional event points (now up to almost 130). That's out of 152 total Race points on Hrbaty's tally sheet. Only one other player (Carlos Moya) exceeds that optional point figure, or even comes close to it -- and Moya has 334 Race points, so his 138 optional points isn't excessive. Hrbaty seems to be intent on finding out just how high a guy can go without doing anything significant at the required events. He has three titles already (Adelaide, Auckland, Marseille), and now is in another semifinal. He hardly even had to break a sweat to do it; he himself admitted that Hernandez didn't play his best. For the moment, he ties Andre Agassi for the #8 spot in the ATP Race. In terms of the Entry rankings, it's less important; Hrbaty really doesn't have much room for additional optional results. A title would help him some, but a semifinal really doesn't matter. Still, he's the only Top 100 player left in the field. And he likes slow surfaces.... Hrbaty really will slow down in the months ahead. For starters, he isn't likely to be as successful on faster surfaces. Plus he will soon have to face the Younes El Aynaoui lesson: he can't keep on adding optional points forever; the ATP doesn't allow it. But it's impressive while it lasts, isn't it?" And fact this was about the limit; his second half didn't match his first. But he's been doing better in required events this year, so he's managed to stay Top 20.

May 23: St. Poelten - Final
Filippo Volandri (8) def. Xavier Malisse (Q) 6-1 6-4
At the time, we said, "Fortunately for Filippo Volandri, the nerves hit him after it was almost too late to matter. He was up 6-1 4-0 -- and lost four straight games. But he won the next two, and in the process earned his first career title. It came at a good time, too, since Volandri hadn't been having a very good year to this point. It wasn't actually bad -- he came in at #57 in the ATP Race -- but of course he'd had those two Masters quarterfinals to defend, and had failed in both cases, and had watched his ranking fall from #42 two months ago to #61 this week. This won't replace all the points he's lost, but he's on the right side of #50 again. And, of course, he has the monkey off his back: 'I feel unbelievably good. I felt very emotional, feeling really good. I played unbelievable tennis for an hour and then maybe relaxed too much. Finally in the last two games I found everything I had to win two great games.' Now if only Malisse could get the monkey off his back. This was his first final in three years -- but he lost it. Again. He's lost all five of his career finals. The only consolation -- if consolation it is -- is that he's taken some real steps to salvage his year. He came in at 7-11 in 2004, and a feeble #87 in the ATP Race. This will bring him up to 11-12, and gain him thirty-odd Race spots. And he'll be back above #60. Now if he'd just remember to sign up for tournaments on time, so he wouldn't have to qualify for events where he would otherwise have been in line for a seed...." At least he solved one thing: He finally won a title. As for Volandri, it seems he's just a slow starter. In 2005, he didn't really wake up until Hamburg. That gave him enough points that he'll probably stay on the good side of #40 even after this comes off.

Five Years Ago: Andrei Pavel won his second career title (and first on clay), beating Andrew Ilie at St. Poelten. It was the first time Ilie lost a final (he had two previous titles).

Ten Years Ago: It's not often that something big happens the week before Roland Garros, but this might qualify as an exception: Marcelo Rios won his first career title, beating Marcelo Filippini at Barcelona.

bad gambler
05-20-2005, 09:38 AM
Marat won the US Open in 2000, jackass


matilidas probably didnt remember because roger was a non event those days

05-20-2005, 09:39 AM
Or he simply meant for the year 2004 :lol:

05-20-2005, 10:58 AM
Marat won the US Open in 2000, jackass

And the Aussie Open this year.

05-20-2005, 06:09 PM
Marat won the US Open in 2000, jackass
he was talking about 2004, genious :retard:

06-30-2005, 03:10 PM
Was It Just a Year Ago?

With two weeks of matches to do this week, we're doing the men and women on separate days.

We should add that there was some big off-the-court news, in the form of the official retirement of Goran Ivanisevic. And, no, that wasn't the Match of the Day; we gave a whole feature to looking back at his career after he lost in the third round to Lleyton Hewitt.

One Year Ago on the ATP:

June 21: Wimbledon - First Round
Ivo Karlovic def. Paradorn Srichaphan (13) 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "Maybe, instead of a draw, we need an Ivo Karlovic Lottery: Once a year, some seeded player gets stuck with him in the first round, and could save time and just withdraw in advance.... Karlovic not only knows how to beat seeds, he knows how to beat seeds so that it will hurt. Last year, it was defending champion Hewitt -- who hasn't been a contender for #1 since. This year, Karlovic did it to Srichaphan. The Thai didn't have as much on the line, of course, but he did make the fourth round last year -- one of his few significant successes at a [required] event. Failure to defend those points is not in itself drastically bad -- Srichaphan, who came in at #14, is in a good spot in the rankings, and probably won't lose more than a position or two; he might even gain a spot. But he is perhaps the worst required-event player in the Top 20; far too many of his points are from optional events. (As witness the fact that he won Nottingham then lost first round at Wimbledon.) Unless he can turn that around, his chances of returning to the Top Ten aren't worth calculating. Karlovic, of course, went on to the third round after beating Hewitt last year, so he still has points to defend. But that first win over Hewitt seemed to improve his game for the whole year since. Could this be the signal for another great leap forward? With Croatia losing Goran Ivanisevic this week, it could use another big name...." A year later, ironically, Karlovic didn't draw a seed in the first round -- and promptly lost (well, it took a long time, but he did lose first round). But Srichaphan has gone nowhere but down since this loss.

June 22: Wimbledon - First Round
Xavier Malisse def. Jiri Novak (16) 6-3 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "It's looking more and more as if the 2002 model of Xavier Malisse is back. The one who was a Top 20 player, with a Wimbledon semifinal and a record of 11-4 in Slams.... There are instances of declines faster than Malisse's, but not many. In 2002, he won nearly 60% of his matches; in 2003, he had a losing record and saw his ranking decay more than 30 places. His best showings were quarterfinals, and those at optional events. He went 1-10 against Top Ten players. And 2004 started out the same way. But, before Roland Garros, he finally came to life, reaching his first final in three years. He won his first doubles Slam (though Olivier Rochus had more than a little to do with that). And now, at the site of his best-ever result, he's back to winning. It's only a first round win, of course, but he lost first round last year. This ought to put him back in the Top 50 (he's already at #46 in the Race). For Jiri Novak, this is another blow in a disappointing year. He arrived with a ranking of #16, but he was a mere #30 in the Race. And he had third round points to defend. It's too early to tell what this will cost him; all we know is that he cannot possibly more up. Our guess would be one or two spots. But it's likely to get worse after that: He has the Gstaad title to defend after Wimbledon. Don't be surprised if he's out of the Top 20 by the end of July." Novak, indeed, has fallen well below #20, and is pretty definitely thinking about retiring. Malisse has had some very good results in the last year, but he remains inconsistent. Hardly a surprise any more, is it?

June 23: Wimbledon
No Matches Played -- RAIN

June 24: Wimbledon - First Round
Alexander Popp def. Nicolas Massu (15) 6-2 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "Andy Roddick had better watch out. There is trouble coming. Alexander Popp, historically, has only two sorts of Wimbledon results: Quarterfinal, or Doesn't Make Main Draw. Those are the only outcomes he's ever experienced: The former in 2000 and 2003, and the latter in every other year. And he happens to be in Roddick's quarter, so the fact that he's here, and winning a match, would seem to bode ill for Roddick. It would seem to bode even worse for Nicolas Massu. This is it. Finis. The end. His hopes of making the Top Ten this year are over. Oh, it's not mathematically impossible, of course. He could still have a great stretch on hardcourts and make a move. But what is mathematically possible and what will actually happen are two different things.... For Alexander Popp, of course, there is much to do before he defends his points. He came in at #90, with 462 points -- meaning that the Wimbledon quarterfinal, 250 points, represented more than half his total. (With a big serve and very little else in his game, he's definitely one of those "grass or nothing" types). Defending an eighth of those points doesn't help much -- but had he lost this, he'd be down around #185. The win means he'll end up 18 or so places higher than that." The comments on Massu, of course, came before he won the Olympics. But he went away after that. At least he won a match at Wimbledon this year, which helps a little. As for Popp -- well, he didn't make the quarterfinal in 2004, but he did make the fourth round, so he's still losing ground this year.

June 26: Wimbledon - Third Round
Ivo Karlovic def. Feliciano Lopez (18) 7-6(14-12) 7-6(7-3) 6-7(2-7) 7-5
At the time, we said, "When two of the biggest serves in tennis meet, something has to give. And the something, in this case, was Feliciano Lopez's streak of Wimbledon fourth rounds.... Lopez is a very atypical Spaniard; he's never had much luck on clay, posting most of his big career results on hardcourts, indoor and out. Well, plus on grass. In fact, it's been largely Wimbledon that's made him what he is. When he arrived at Wimbledon 2002, he had exactly one Slam match win, but he made the fourth round with wins over Canas and Schuettler. Last year, he did it again, though he beat rather lesser players.... Now, finally, he's out in the third round, to the Incredible Tiebreak-Playing Croat. Given how big Wimbledon has been for Lopez, it will cost him surprisingly little -- he came in at #22, and will lose between one and four places, with two being perhaps the most likely number. It will be more interesting to see how this affects his future results. And Ivo Karlovic's, too. It was his breakthrough here last year that made him a respectable player, and now the 25-year-old has gone himself one better. He still doesn't have much of a ground game -- but with that serve, it almost doesn't matter. #62 coming in, he joins the large clump of players just on the edge of the Top 50. Now if only he didn't have to face Roger Federer next...." A year later, Karlovic big Wimbledon didn't lead to much, and now he's failed to defend the points. If there were more grass, he might be Top 20. But it would be very expensive to make that "if" come true. But Lopez, who suffered for this loss, has now turned things around and has had his best Wimbledon ever.

June 28: Wimbledon - Fourth Round
Tim Henman (5) def. Mark Philippoussis (11) 6-2 7-5 6-7(3-7) 7-6(7-5)
At the time, we said, "The British said beforehand that they weren't worried. If Mark Philippoussis couldn't beat Ian Flanagan, he wasn't in shape to threaten 'Oor Tim.' That, evidently, was before Philippoussis had half his points on the line and had desperate need to defend them. The Australian has been a completely different player this week. And, of course, Henman has struggled. It showed, in particular, in the fourth set. Henman had the match on his racquet; he served for it -- and was broken. But he pulled it out in the end. And so last year's finalist had to watch 550 of his points disappear. That was over a third of his total. It was even bigger when you consider that Philippoussis has earned almost nothing this year. He falls below #40, and is if anything likely to fall further before he can start climbing. For Henman, this still doesn't guarantee anything except that he won't fall in the rankings. He came in at #6, and right now he's at #5, but Lleyton Hewitt could still overtake him. On the other hand, if Henman can make the semifinal, he is guaranteed to move up to #4 in the world. Problem is, he has to beat Sebastien Grosjean to do it. And Grosjean, despite his #10 seeding, is arguably Top Five on grass, and he was a semifinalist last year, so he won't have any particular reason to be nervous -- and he's looked much better so far than has Henman." And Grosjean did indeed beat Henman -- but the bigger news was Philippoussis, who simply collapsed over the past year. He did show some signs of life this grass season; he may well be ready to rebuild. But he has a lot of rebuilding to do. As does Henman, who suffered his worse Wimbledon loss in a decade this year, and runs a real risk of falling out of the Top Ten.

June 29: Wimbledon - Third Round DOUBLES
Justin Gimelstob/Scott Humphries def. Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (2) 6-3 3-6 6-4
Recall that, due to the rain, Wimbledon last year went to best of three for doubles. At the time, we said, "The tennis gods seem determined to make things interesting. For a while, it appeared that Jonas Bjorkman and Todd Woodbridge would lose, and we would have a new #1 team. Then it appears the Bryans would win, and we were likely to have one anyway. Then -- this. We have no idea what happened. The Bryans got 81% of their first serves in, which would seem to spell success in doubles! But then, they did pretty well on serve; there was only one break in each of the three sets. Problem is, Gimelstob and Humphries earned two of the three. And that means that things are wide open as far as the #1 ranking is concerned. Because Bjorkman and Woodbridge were defending champions, they came in well behind the Bryans in safe points. But not so far behind that they can't keep the #1 ranking -- if they can defend.... At worst, the Bryans will keep their current #3/#4 ranking. And they will be #1 in the Race unless Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor win Wimbledon. Still -- when are they actually going to win something that counts? They have four titles this year, and every single one of them optional. Unless they crank up the required results, it's hard to see them as the year-end #1 team. For Gimelstob and Humphries, this is likely to be the highlight of their year. Humphries came in at #80 in doubles, with a first round loss to defend; Gimelstob was #86 and lost in the second round. Humphries should rise to about #55, Gimelstob to around #75." The Bryans' problem with winning big events of course has continued in the year since; they won the year-end event, but that was it. As for Gimelstob and Humphries, they couldn't hope to defend -- but Gimelstob at least did well enough in singles to be perfectly happy.

June 30: Wimbledon - Quarterfinal
Mario Ancic def. Tim Henman (5) 7-6(7-5) 6-4 6-2
At the time, we said, "Tim Henman has long since been forced to develop a stiff upper lip. Seven previous Wimbledon quarterfinals. Four semifinals. Zero finals.... This one hurt. Quite possibly literally. Henman hasn't said anything -- stiff upper lip, remember? -- but he hasn't seemed quite right in any of his matches, and today he looked just a little light-headed and slow on his feet. At least once, he appeared to be trying to pop his ears. A slight ear or sinus infection, maybe? Whatever it was, he had real trouble dealing with Mario Ancic, and Ancic was serving big and hitting enough big forehands to do some damage, even if the 'baby Goran' seemed to have some of his idol's tendency toward messed-up volleys.... The faintly good news is, Henman moves up to #5 in the world, leaving David Nalbandian at #6 and Juan Carlos Ferrero at #7. But he would have been #4 had he won this match; instead, Carlos Moya gets that spot.... Ancic, of course, hits a career high. A quite nice career high, too; he's up to #28. Though the danger is that he's earned over 40% of his points here; it remains to be seen if he can follow this up -- or defend next year. And he has to face Andy Roddick next. (Talk about a match promising a lot of short points.) Still, he has nowhere to go but up for the rest of the year; he's up to #12 in the Race, and... [87% of his points] were earned this year. You don't often see a player improve his results that fast in the course of a year!" A year later, Ancic has been in and out of the Top 20 -- but he still hasn't really proved a consistent player on anything but grass, and this year, he lost early and is bound out of the Top 20. As for Henman and his too early loss -- well, we covered that.

July 1: Wimbledon - Quarterfinal DOUBLES
Knowle/Zimonjic (16) def. Black/Ullyett (6) 7-5 4-6 6-4
At the time, we said, "Pity the poor guy who is almost-great in doubles. 90% of the tennis world says, 'Oh, it's just doubles; who cares'; most of the rest says, 'Yes, but when is he going to win a Slam?' Could this be the year Nenad Zimonjic finally answers the latter question? He has, after all, won a Masters with Tim Henman. On clay, even. That's pretty promising. And now he's beaten one of the best teams in the world to make a Slam semifinal -- though it should be noted that Wayne Black was playing on a bad ankle. Wish we knew what had happened. We don't. We can only calculate the effects. Kevin Ullyett came in at #11; had he won, he would have been sure to make the Top Ten. As it is, he's at #10, but Paul Hanley can pass him by making the Wimbledon final. Black came in at #13, and will move up to #12 unless Wayne Arthurs wins Wimbledon. Zimonjic, who came in at #21, is closing in on his career high of #16 in doubles; Knowle, #41 coming in, isn't Top 20 yet, but may be heading that way." Knowle and Zimonjic did not win Wimbledon, but they did make the final, and Zimonjic has been doing very well this year with Leander Paes also. Not quite Top Ten, though, and now this final will be coming off. Still, he's in better shape than Knowle, who is bound back out of the Top 40.

July: Wimbledon - Final
Roger Federer (1) def. Andy Roddick (2) 4-6 7-5 7-6(7-3) 6-4
It appears that this match rendered us speechless. We don't have the report on this particular Match of the Day. Chances are you remember it anyway. It was a good match for Andy Roddick, but once Roger Federer started getting his teeth into the contest, that was just about it. It was (and, at this moment, still is) the only time he's defended a Slam. It ran his grass streak to 24 (and, of course, that wasn't the end).
And it pretty well ended Andy Roddick's #1 hopes. To that point, Federer had had to defend things, so Roddick had chances to move up. From this time on, it was Roddick's turn to defend -- and he couldn't do it, and Federer just kept racking up the points. Since this match, it has been Lleyton Hewitt and, later, Rafael Nadal who have been Federer's closest competitors, and even they not very close. Given how young Roddick is, we hate to call it a turning point -- but, at the very least, it was a point where he might possibly have made a turn for the better, and failed.

Five Years Ago: If 2004 marked Roger Federer's first Slam defence, 2000 marked Pete Sampras's last. He won his final Wimbledon, beating Patrick Rafter in a four set final. It wasn't his last title -- not even his last Slam title. But it sure looked like it would be for a couple of years. Rafter would have one last chance, at Wimbledon 2001, but he was getting close to the end, too: He won only one more title.

Ten Years Ago: This was the year Sampras finished the (first) three-Pete, beating Boris Becker in a four set Wimbledon final. It hadn't been, by Sampras standards, a very good year to that point: Only two titles (Indian Wells and Queen's). This did a lot to rescue him -- and winning the U. S. Open did more.

07-08-2005, 01:59 PM
July 5: Bastad - First Round
Juan Monaco (WC) def. Nicolas Massu (3) 4-6 6-3 6-2
At the time, we said, "All spring, we wondered about Nicolas Massu and the Top Ten ranking. He never made it. Now there is a new worry: Can he hold onto the ranking he has? The indications aren't particularly good. This loss doesn't hurt him directly; he lost first round at Bastad last year also. But then he turned into Superman: He won Amersfoort, and reached the Kitzbuhel final the next week. Two months later, he made the Bucharest final, won Palermo, and also tossed in a Challenger win at Szczecin. All that has to be defended, and he wasn't really playing under pure Required and Optional at the time, so some of his points will come off even if he repeats. And he's looked simply miserable this year, with a Race ranking of only #48. He has one more week to recover. The prognosis doesn't look good. Juan Monaco, though, is looking more and more as if he's bound for the Top 100. He's up to #110 now, and has a few more weeks of clay to make it. This win doesn't matter much -- Bastad, though fairly strong, is at the bottom of the points scale. But he's added another good scalp, and not in Latin America this time. It would be no surprise at all if on the good side of #100 by the end of the month." Monaco in fact made it to #70 by year-end, though he hasn't continued that rate of progress this year, and in fact lost first round this year. As for Massu, he won Kitzbuhel, and the Olympics, which are as big as optional events get -- but now he's falling due to the effects of injury.

July 6: Gstaad - First Round
Stefan Koubek def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (2) 7-6(7-4) 6-4
At the time, we said, "This time, there were no last-minute heroics from Juan Carlos Ferrero. You'll recall that Stefan Koubek had Ferrero dead to rights at Wimbledon, and Ferrero managed to work his way out of it. Given another chance, one tournament later, Ferrero ran out of wriggle room. And so Koubek has, theoretically at least, one of the biggest wins of his career. Ferrero has nothing except more questions. It's been six weeks since he took the court at Roland Garros after a long layoff; you'd think he would be showing signs of improvement. Obviously not. Ferrero was up 3-1 early but collapsed from there. In the short term, this doesn't mean anything for Ferrero. He didn't play at this time last year.... But he does have a lot to defend in starting a month and a half from now (U. S. Open final, Bangkok final, Madrid win). And the next three weeks represent the only opportunities he has left on clay. This was his one chance to get back on track. And look what happened. For Koubek, this really doesn't make much difference. He reached the Gstaad quarterfinal last year, so he still has points to defend. After this week, though, he has almost nothing.... There is plenty of room to rise -- if he can score a few more wins like this one. That would seem a much more likely scenario if there were more clay events in the coming months. Ferrero evidently doesn't like playing Koubek at all (consider what happened at the U. S. Open.) But at least he's getting his game back; between injuries and suspension, Koubek has been in terrible form.

July 7: Bastad - Second Round
Fernando Gonzalez (6) def. Jarkko Nieminen 7-6(7-3) 6-1
At the time, we said, "When the going got tough, we learned how Jarkko Nieminen was really doing in his comeback. It wasn't quite as well as he'd hoped. This was an odd sort of match: Fernando Gonzalez has a game that seems best suited for hardcourts, but he's most comfortable on clay; Jarkko Nieminen has good clay tools but is more accustomed to faster surfaces. Between the surface and the amount of rust Nieminen was carrying -- and the fact that Gonzalez has won all four of their career meetings -- the result was pretty decisive. In terms of actual rankings, this doesn't mean much. Nieminen didn't play at this time last year (though he does have third round points at Stuttgart next week). His ranking has fallen enough (#69) that he gets to take on additional optional tournaments (he may not get into the summer Masters), but of course second round points at a small event don't matter much. The bigger opportunities come after that; he lost first round at the Canadian Open, second round at Cincinnati, in the Long Island quarterfinal, and second round at the U. S. Open. The chance to play some Challengers may be just what he needs. Gonzalez didn't play at this time last year, either; he went from Wimbledon to Stuttgart, where he made the semifinal. This isn't going to affect his total at all. On the other hand, he's the highest seed left in the top half of the Bastad draw." A year later, we know that Nieminen's comeback went badly -- but he does finally seem to be coming back to life. Though he lost his opener this year, which doesn't help.

July 8: Newport - Second Round
Greg Rusedski def. Kenneth Carlsen 4-6 7-6(7-5) 7-6(8-6)
At the time, we said, "Cancel that retirement party! After Greg Rusedski spent most of 2004 losing (plus being investigated for steroid use), there was genuine speculation that he would pack it in in the near future. He still might, but at least he's not going quietly. (He wouldn't, would he?) Here, at the tournament where he picked up his first title, he's finally winning again. The tough way: There was one break in the match (by Carlsen, obviously), and Rusedski blasted 18 aces. And this is not a cheap win at all. Oh, Kenneth Carlsen's ranking is in the tank, but he is a former finalist here (1999), plus he made the semifinal in 2001; he's obviously happy at this event. Rusedski didn't roll over him, but at least he's through. And, when you're ranked where Rusedski is (#166), a quarterfinal, even at a bottom-tier event, is significant. He'll gain about 20 ranking spots. It's not much, but at least it spells a better grade of qualifying. Nor is he necessarily done; he's in the bottom half of the draw, which has only one seed (Anthony Dupuis) left. If Rusedski is in anything like decent form -- and he said he felt good in his first match although he didn't like the way he played this one -- he could well find his way to the final. And that would spell real movement. Carlsen came in at #88, making him higher-ranked than some of the seeds. He didn't play last year, so he actually gains a few points, but he isn't likely to move much." Rusedski, of course, went on to win the event again, putting him back on the map. He hasn't gotten his ranking all the way back, but he's been around #40. Of course, this is coming off now....

July 11: Gstaad - Final
Roger Federer (1) def. Igor Andreev 6-2 6-3 5-7 6-3
At the time, we said, "Is there any limit to what Roger Federer can do? Last year, he won Wimbledon, then made the Gstaad final. This year, his task was even harder, since he had to play two three-set matches on Friday, then another on Saturday -- and then faced a five-set final. When he lost the third set (after being up 4-2), you wondered if he might not finally be running out of gas. But no, he bounced back to finally win the tournament where he started his career. Federer's numbers are getting more impressive by the day. This gives him 17 straight wins this year. He has seven titles this year -- Australian Open, Dubai, and Indian Wells on hardcourt, Hamburg and Gstaad on clay, Halle and Wimbledon on grass. And most of the events on his preferred surfaces (indoors) are still to come! With 47 ATP wins (omitting four in Davis Cup), and only four losses, he has a won/lost so far this year in excess of 90%. That compares to a record of 49-10 last year -- and even that was enough to put him one win away from the #1 ranking. Assuming he continues on his current schedule, that puts him on pace to end the year 76-6 -- a record not even Pete Sampras ever threatened (Sampras twice had more wins, but he also had more losses). It probably won't happen -- American hardcourts are still perhaps Federer's worst surface -- but the very thought is stunning. He now has 18 career titles -- which means he's already in the Top 40 all-time, and he doesn't turn 23 for another month! Federer of course is making his #1 ranking that much stronger. This makes only a very slight difference in the rankings -- Federer, after all, already had three titles in his optional five (Vienna 2003, plus Dubai and Halle this year), and was last year's finalist anyway. But it takes him a step closer to the year-end #1. He now has a more than 300 [Race] point lead over #2 Guillermo Coria, and a 330 point lead over Andy Roddick. That doesn't clinch the #1 ranking... theoretically, either [Guillermo Coria or Andy Roddick] could still gain 850 points and take the top spot. In practice, the maximum for Roddick is probably about 500 points, and Coria would be lucky to pick up 350. But if Federer starts losing, it's possible. If Federer starts losing. A big 'if.' For Andreev, this is still something of a triumph; it's his first ATP final, culminating a run in which he went 12-5 and made the Roland Garros fourth round, beating Juan Carlos Ferrero along the way. The Russian came to Gstaad ranked #62, and at this time last year was losing first round at the Scheveningen Challenger. He'll rise to around #45 -- though he has a Challenger final to defend next week, so he's likely to lose the ground quickly. Still, it's a career high. And a psychological high, too." A year later, Andreev's progress has continued, he even won his first title -- but he also lost early here, which will put him right about where he was a year ago. As for Federer, he ended 2004 at an amazing 74-6. He won't match his Slams record this year -- but he's actually doing better in the race....

Five Years Ago: This was Davis Cup week, but it didn't prevent the ATP from scheduling multiple events anyway. At Bastad, Magnus Norman won another clay title -- no surprise there. Nor was it surprising when Alex Corretja won Gstaad. Newport, though, did what it usually does and produced an unlikely winner -- in this case, Peter Wessels, who earned what will probably be his only ATP title.

Ten Years Ago: Another Newport, another surprise -- specifically, David Prinosil, who won his first career title. Plus Yevgeny Kafelnikov won his first clay title at Gstaad, and Fernando Meligeni earned his first-ever title at Bastad.

07-08-2005, 02:04 PM
Assuming he continues on his current schedule, that puts him on pace to end the year 76-6 -- a record not even Pete Sampras ever threatened
They were close, only two losses, and 2 more wins, off of his actual record.

07-11-2005, 02:37 AM

Massu and the top ten thing:lol:


Nicoo :sad:

07-29-2005, 03:28 PM
July 26: Canadian Open - First Round
Paradorn Srichaphan (14) def. Andrei Pavel 7-5 6-2
At the time, we said, "Someone must have told Paradorn Srichaphan that this isn't exactly a required event. It changed everything. This was one of those matches where one player didn't have any clear and overwhelming advantage, but somehow Srichaphan kept coming out ahead where it counted. Pavel had a higher first serve percentage (76%), but Srichaphan won more often on both first and second serves, and also returned a little bit better. That translated into four breaks (to one for Pavel) and a fairly easy win. Surprisingly easy, considering that Srichaphan was among the lowest seeds (and actually would have been seeded lower had this week's rankings been used), while Pavel was the top unseeded player. The top unseeded player, but he won't be climbing. A disappointing result at the tournament where he scored his best-ever success. For the moment, of course, it doesn't matter. Pavel has nothing to defend for the next two months; his first result of significance is the Metz quarterfinal at the end of September. He still has room to climb, with two more required events between then and now.... And yet, somehow, he seems to be wearing down just a little (he's 'only' #19 in the Race, compared to his #17 ranking). This might be another symptom. For Srichaphan, who has zillions of good optional results, this of course makes no difference; where he ends up will depend on how others do this week. But he does have third round points from last year's Canadian Open coming off next week, and though he lost first round at Cincinnati, he did win Long Island and make the U. S. Open fourth round. This won't affect his ranking for now. But it's good news for later." A year later, Pavel really did wear out, and his ranking has been falling for most of the year. But, for Srichaphan, this looks like more points he won't be defending when the time comes; he too is having a horrid year.

July 27: Canadian Open
No matches played -- rain

July 28: Canadian Open - First Round
Fernando Gonzalez def. Rainer Schuettler (8) 3-6 6-4 6-3
At the time, we said, "Sometimes, you just want to kick Rainer Schuettler upside the head. He knew Toronto was coming up, but did he fly to North America to cure his jet lag? Did he practice on hardcourt? No, he was playing at Kitzbuhel, on clay, as recently as Sunday. Fernando Gonzalez hung around on clay too, of course, but when you're Schuettler and live on energy and technique, being tired and un-practiced is not a good combination. And Schuettler's timing is more than usually bad, because he was a semifinalist last year. Given the way the schedule works this year, that does not immediately cost him; he may well stay #8 until after next week, depending on how other do, of course. But he goes into next week roughly tied with Gaston Gaudio and Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi in safe points, and he has semifinalist points at Cincinnati, too. He probably won't lose his Top Ten spot this week. But this may well be the loss that, in the slightly longer term, does him in. He is, after all, a mere #19 in the Race, and sure to fall. As for Gonzalez -- well, it's a first round win at what is, for this week at least, an optional event. It really doesn't make any difference -- yet." A year later, we know that this did cost Schuettler. These days, #19 in the Race would doubtless sound wonderful to him. For that matter, even getting into the Top 100 would be progress.

July 29: Canadian Open - Second Round
Gustavo Kuerten def. Tim Henman (5) 7-5 6-4
At the time, we said, "Call this the all-mixed-up leading the all-mixed-up. Gustavo Kuerten is a natural clay player, but despite winning Costa do Sauipe this spring, most of his recent success has been on hardcourts. And Tim Henman this year has had his best result on -- clay. And so we see the role reversal turn complete. The former clay specialist beat the hardcourt specialist (of Henman's 11 career titles, five have been on outdoor hardcourt and four more on indoor hardcourt). Kuerten out-served Henman, and out-returned him; it was a long, tough contest, but Kuerten generally dominated. And that means that the Top Five after the Canadian Open is set -- sort of. We know that Roger Federer is #1, Andy Roddick #2, Guillermo Coria #3, and Carlos Moya #4 despite his later third round loss. Henman, who was defending Washington this week, falls from #5 to #6 (with a theoretical possibility, as of when he lost, that Lleyton Hewitt could still pass him by winning Toronto). Of course, that's a temporary situation; Nalbandian has the Canadian Open final to defend next week.... For Kuerten, the match is just another step in his seemingly-endless comeback, in which he has looked good some weeks and dreadful others; we hate to speculate on whether he'll actually back it up. He's very close, under the current strange ranking situation, to a return to the Top 20. But this win alone couldn't clinch it. Of course, this was his first match of the day...." He went on to lose to Jan Hernych, of all people, in his second. Nor is there much to add a year later; Kuerten will be falling in the rankings -- yet again! -- this week.

August 1: Canadian Open - Final
Roger Federer (1) def. Andy Roddick (2) 7-5 6-3
At the time, we said, "Is there anything this guy can't do? For about eight games, Federer and Roddick were playing close. Then Roddick seemed to make his move, earning three break points on Federer's serve. And then Federer turned it on. He saved the break points. He won the set. He steamrolled. On a North American hardcourt, no less. Andy Roddick's surface, and probably Federer's worst. Hard to believe. He's now won 23 straight matches, and he's done it on three difference surfaces: Halle and Wimbledon on grass, Gstaad on clay, and now Toronto on hardcourt. He has eight titles this year -- the first player in nine years to have that many, and we've hardly scratched indoor surfaces, Federer's favorite. (Well, his former favorite. These days, his favorite is probably anything with a net and accurately drawn sidelines.) In terms of the rankings, this doesn't change anything: Federer remains #1, and Roddick #2, and it was going to be that way whoever won. The real question is, can anyone possibly pass Federer in the rankings this year? We can ignore everyone except Roddick, since the #3-#5 guys in the Race are all clay-courters and Lleyton Hewitt, the #6 guy, is 550 Race points behind Federer. Even Roddick is almost 330 Race points back. He already has three optional titles, so the best he can seriously hope to pick up on Federer at optional events is about 120 points (and even that is only because of the Olympics, and even that requires a near-miracle). We have one Slam (U. S. Open), three Masters (Cincinnati, Madrid, Paris), and the Masters Cup. That means that Roddick, if he wins *everything,* can gain about 770 Race points. That already means that Roddick cannot force his way to #1 -- if he wins everything, but Federer is finalist at all those required events, then Federer ends up at 1266 Race points and Roddick at 1252. And who really believes that Roddick can win everything anyway? We're out of superlatives. On the numbers, Federer is the most dominant year-end #1 since Pete Sampras in 1994 -- and it's not even the end of the year yet!" A year later, Federer's winning streak was about to end, but other than that, we have nothing to add.

Five Years Ago: Marat Safin beat, believe it or not, Harel Levy in the final of the Canadian Open. It was Safin's first-ever Masters title, and foreshadowed his U. S. Open win; for Levy, it really didn't foreshadow much of anything except a lot of disappointment with what followed.

Ten Years Ago: In a strange twist of scheduling, Kitzbuhel came after the Canadian Open, and produced a medium shock: Thomas Muster didn't win. Instead, Albert Costa took home the title (beating Muster in the final); it was the first career title for the Spaniard. Also winning his first career title was Bohdan Ulihrach, who beat Javier Sanchez at Prague; Michael Stich won the next-to-last title of his career, beating Thomas Enqvist at Los Angeles.

Doris Loeffel
07-29-2005, 07:49 PM

08-04-2005, 04:51 PM
August 2: Cincinnati - First Round
Tommy Haas (WC) def. Rainer Schuettler (8) 6-3 1-6 6-4
At the time, we said, "Even if you ignore the three match points Rainer Schuettler saved in the final set before finally losing, what a thing to put us through! This match, and Agassi/Fish, on the same day! And Americans would doubtless prefer that we talk about Agassi/Fish [won by Agassi when Fish retired in the third after winning the first set]. But while that one was big, its effects would not be felt at once, because of calendar shift. This one will be felt now -- and next week also. Because Rainer Schuettler was semifinalist at the Canadian Open last week, and that comes off now, and he was semifinalist at Cincinnati 2003, and that has already been reduced to optional event status and will come off next week. And that means that Schuettler can kiss the Top Ten goodbye. #8 coming in, odds are that he'll be #11 next week. Ironically, be might stay there the week after that, because the gap between #11 and #12 is currently very large. But we'd guess he'll end up #12 or #13. And that with the U. S. Open (where he has fourth round points) coming up, and then his title at Tokyo, and the title at Lyon after that. The loss raises a genuine question: How much longer will Schuettler be the top German? Tommy Haas is looking good again, but he is too far back to be an immediate threat. Nicolas Kiefer, though, is already Top 20, and higher in the Race -- indeed, he has a big lead on Schuettler in that department. We could envision Kiefer taking the lead among Germans as soon as the U. S. Open.... This win means more for Haas than it would for most guys in a Masters Series, since he wasn't defending anything. But it's still only a few points. He won't hit the Top 50 just yet. One thing this does do, of course, is assure that Schuettler will not get the #8 seed at the U. S. Open. That will probably go to Gaston Gaudio or Lleyton Hewitt, though Andre Agassi is in the contest too. Stay tuned on that one...." Schuettler, obviously, had been struggling all year, but this was the week that the German's big downward spiral really started. The question now is, When will it end?

August 3: Cincinnati - First Round
Dominik Hrbaty def. Roger Federer (1) 1-6 7-6(9-7) 6-4
At the time, we said, "Roger Federer came into this event with a 23-match winning streak. The last streak that long or longer was scored by Pete Sampras in 1999. But Sampras, in building his 24-match string, didn't have to play back-to-back Masters events. It may well have made a difference. This match bore a certain resemblance to Federer's contest with Andy Roddick two days ago. In the second set, Hrbaty had a couple of set points on Federer's serve -- but the Swiss saved them. They went to a tiebreak, and Hrbaty three times was up a minibreak -- including once at 6-5, meaning that he had a point on serve for the set. Then again at 8-7. That one he finally converted. And Federer, who had blown a half dozen break points in the second, just couldn't keep things together in the third. Ironically, the ATP announced on Tuesday that Roger Federer had [qualified] for the Masters Cup.... That came over the wire within minutes of this result. Obviously this doesn't affect his Masters Cup chances. But it does mean, for the first time in months, that Andy Roddick will have the chance to gain some real ground on Federer in the Race. Just doing as well as Federer wasn't going to cut it -- but, in this case, Roddick can do more than that. He might even gain ground in the rankings. A little. If he can reach at least the final. Roddick is defending champion's points (from the Canadian Open) this week, but Federer had semifinalist points. So if Roddick can pick up a big result, he'll narrow the gap a hair. For the moment. Until Cincinnati comes off next week. In a way, this may be good news for Federer. (He even said so himself, more or less.) Although he hasn't guaranteed himself the #1 ranking at year-end, it's almost certain he'll have it. And Federer really wants to do well at the Olympics. This way, he gets an extra five days to travel home and get over his jet lag. Plus some rest he could surely use. There isn't much to say about Hrbaty's result. He's had problems at required events (to put it mildly), so this is good news -- but it's still only second round points." Obviously Federer's time off didn't help him at the Olympics. On the other hand, it means that his failure to play the Canadian Open won't hurt him -- and he liked a summer rest so much that he's doing it again in 2005.

August 4: Cincinnati - Second Round
Ivo Karlovic (Q) def. Feliciano Lopez 7-6(9-7) 6-4
At the time, we said, "On the one hand, it was about what you would expect: A serving contest. Ivo Karlovic produced 19 aces, Feliciano Lopez 12. And yet, surprisingly, Karlovic managed two breaks (and Lopez, of course, managed one). Nor was it really as close as it looks; Karlovic won 81 points to Lopez's 69. In any case, the bottom line is, Karlovic won. Won by picking on second serves, mostly; Lopez won only 42% when he didn't get one of his big bombs in. And that's big, because Lopez reached the quarterfinal at the Canadian Open last year. And he came in at #29. The loss of those points means that he will drop to no better than #32 -- and Jonas Bjorkman is only one win from passing him, and there are other within reach. It's not certain yet, of course, but this loss very likely cost Lopez his U. S. Open seed. For Karlovic, this has 'career high' written all over it. He came in at #58, two spots below his career best. With the rankings situation this week being as crazy as it is, we won't swear that puts him in the Top 50 -- but our rough cut is that it will. Pretty good for a guy who, until a few months ago, couldn't win a set except in a tiebreak...." A year later, though, Lopez has kept his ranking up, while Karlovic isn't winning his big matches any more and has been falling. Now, of course, he can expect to fall some more, though he started well at Washington.

August 5: Cincinnati - Second Round
Lleyton Hewitt (10) def. Tim Henman (5) 6-1 6-4
At the time, we said, "If you believe this was an upset, we have a nice bridge to sell you.... Tim Henman and Lleyton Hewitt had met seven times before this, and Hewitt has won all of them. Henman had won exactly two sets. And besides, Henman had had an exhausting match much less than a day before, whereas Hewitt was reasonably strong. It all added up to a blowout. But a very significant blowout, because it settles a lot of things. As in, in all likelihood, the seedings at the U. S. Open. Oh, it's not absolutely certain yet. The Olympics are still coming up, and eight of the top nine will be involved. And the Olympics are big. But they're also Optional; a good result there will cost a player another result, if a lesser one. So it's fairly likely that the rankings after this week will be functionally the same as those used to seed the U. S. Open. And that means that Carlos Moya, not Tim Henman, will be the #4 seed. As a matter of fact, he has an outside chance at the #3 seed if he does well enough here and in Athens. Roger Federer will be #1, Andy Roddick #2, Guillermo Coria and Moya #3-#4, and Henman, Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Nalbandian, and someone will be #5-#8. And the someone will probably be Hewitt. As of now, he's #8, and Gaston Gaudio #9, though the Australian still has to worry a little about Andre Agassi. Gaudio, of course, could still overtake him at the Olympics -- but, with 75 points coming off at Cincinnati, it doesn't look all that likely. Nor is Agassi playing in Athens. And Hewitt is looking like a hardcourt threat again. This win, routine as it was, just might open some pretty big doors." Since Hewitt was #2 for most of the year, largely on the strength of the U. S. Open final, it obviously did. For Henman, this week represented opportunity, since he had relatively little to defend -- but, of course, he blew it.

August 8: Cincinnati - Final
Andre Agassi (11) def. Lleyton Hewitt (10) 6-3 3-6 6-2
At the time, we said, "Just to get here was big for both players. For Andre Agassi, he at last showed that there was something left -- and earned a Top Eight seed at the U. S. Open. Lleyton Hewitt probably didn't have as much to prove, but he did gain the same tangible benefit: He was assured at least the #8 ranking, and so a high Open seed. Even for a three-setter, it was quite a grind. The points were long, and there were a lot of them. Four times in the first set, Hewitt had break point. He didn't convert any. Agassi managed to find one. In the second, you got the feeling the wear and tear was getting to Agassi. This time, it was Hewitt who broke through. Not so. The American roared back in the third, earning one break early, and then breaking in the long final game when Hewitt double faulted. And with that, Agassi is back all the way to #7 in the world. His sojourn outside the Top Ten proved very short. Perhaps more important, he's back up to #9 in the Race, though it's a rather distant #9. He also has a significant monkey off his back. Agassi hadn't won a title since Houston in the spring of 2003. It had been a little longer still since his last big title, at Miami a few weeks before that. He hadn't won a summer hardcourt Masters since winning Cincinnati back to back in 1994-1995. Quite a turnaround. The overall statistics: Agassi now has 59 titles, and 17 Masters titles -- the former first among active players (Hewitt is a distant second with 21), the latter the all-time record. He has won at least one Slam or Masters in 11 of the last 15 years (every year since 1990, inclusive, except for 1991, 1993, 1997, and 1998); obviously that means he's won at least one for six years straight.... Hewitt obviously lost, but he continues to re-establish himself as a top player. He's #8 in the rankings, and #5 in the Race; it's worth noting that he is the top healthy player to be skipping the Olympics. So he will go into the U. S. Open fully rested and ready. (As will Agassi, of course.) It looks as if the Lost Year is well and truly over." Since Hewitt has been #2 in the world for much of the year since this win, obviously the Lost Year was over. Agassi is in much worse shape, with these points coming off and no way to replace them at this time. He's in real danger of having that string of years with Masters ending. On the other hand, he won Los Angeles last week, for his first title since Cincinnati, so there is life in him still....

Five Years Ago: Thomas Enqvist beat Tim Henman in the final of Cincinnati. It was nearly the pinnacle of the Swede's career; the year before, he had made the Australian Open final, and in the twelve months preceding this, he has won the Stuttgart Masters and made the Indian Wells final. Barring a real surprise in the coming years, he would win only two more titles, both optional, and never get beyond a Masters quarterfinal.

Ten Years Ago: Another week, another Masters for Andre Agassi: Having already won the Australian Open, Miami, and the Canadian Open, he added Cincinnati -- the first of three titles he won there. (Hard to believe he didn't end that year at #1). Meanwhile, Thomas Muster was winning yet another clay title, beating Andrea Gaudenzi at San Marino.

08-11-2005, 04:15 PM
August 9: Sopot - First Round
Adrian Garcia def. Nikolay Davydenko (2) 3-6 7-6(7-5) 6-4
At the time, we said, "Evidently it still doesn't pay to be a Russian in Poland. There were two Russian seeds in action; both lost to players ranked below #100. On its face, this was just the sort of event Nikolay Davydenko should have liked: Not too big, not too strong, and on a surface not too fast. (Marc Rosset, in fact, said that it was slow and heavy even for clay.) That's been his regular recipe for success. Too bad he had to run into Adrian Garcia. Garcia is new enough that he didn't even make the 'Other Prominent Players' appendix to the APT's media guide, which consists of a bunch of has-beens plus a few rising stars. It's hard to blame the ATP; Garcia played one event in 2003, losing first round; he was #241 at the end of last year.... Mark this down as his first big win. He had two earlier victories in 2004, but they were over Paul Capdeville at Vina del Mar and Rosset at Amersfoort. This is clearly in another league. The points won't matter much, but Garcia can now claim his first Top 100 win. We would guess, based on how quickly he's climbing, that there will be more in the near future." Not much to say a year later except that that guess was wrong....

August 10: Sopot - First Round
Marat Safin (1) def. Galo Blanco 7-5 6-3
At the time, we said, "All right, we couldn't resist. Our women's Match of the Day features Dinara Safina. Lacking anything particularly inspiring on the men's side, we're going to go for a brother/sister duet. At least Safin overcame the jinxes. Yesterday, we had seeds and Russians falling everywhere. And here Safin was, a seed and a Russian. And he was facing a Spaniard on a day when no fewer than five Spaniards made the second round. And, unlike most of the people in Sopot, he will be playing the Olympics, so he has reason to worry about other things. You'd never know it from the result. Safin had one brief lapse, breaking but then handing the break back. From then on, he cruised. In terms of consequences, this doesn't mean beans. Safin isn't defending anything, but Sopot is as small as an ATP event can get; Safin gains only 2 Race/10 Entry points for winning, and that won't take him anywhere. He needs a win to move up in the Race, and almost as much to move in the Entry standings. And Blanco was between Challengers at this time last year... so he won't move either. But it's been a long while since Safin and Safina have won at the same event on the same day. Safina lost her opener at Wimbledon, and while both won matches at Roland Garros, it wasn't on the same day. Safina also lost her opener at Miami, and didn't play Indian Wells. So the last time was over six months ago, on the first Tuesday of the Australian Open. Whew!" A year later, both brother and sister have been climbing, but now Safin is hurt -- and Safina, while she's playing, has frequent back problems.

August 11: Sopot - Second Round
Marc Lopez def. Marat Safin (1) 6-3 6-2
At the time, we said, "The really scary part of this is, What are we going to do for a Match of the Day for tomorrow? This loss -- as with most Safin losses -- produced some buzz. And the usual buzz went, 'Tank.' 'Appearance fee.' Something like that. (Safin himself gave much the same answer he did after his first match: 'I came here because it was in my schedule, because I wanted to play here and it's important to play in Houston at the end of the year. So every tournament I play is important for the points. The Olympics is not until next week, I will arrive there and there is plenty of time.') To be fair, Safin had had some trouble against Galo Blanco the day before, and here he was, facing another Spaniard -- and this one a Spaniard who seems to be going places. So maybe Lopez was just genuinely better. Or maybe Safin genuinely thought he was. Maybe. We don't really want to understand how Safin thinks; too much risk that we might start thinking that way. In any case, the loss means that Safin will stay right where he was before, in both Race and Entry rankings. The good news is, now he can go and really get ready for the Olympics. Though we probably don't want to know what his preparation will consist of.... It has been a year of genuine progress for Marc Lopez. He played his first ATP match of the year at Buenos Aires as a qualifier, and was whipped off the court by Franco Squillari. He qualified again for Acapulco, and lost a cliffhanger to Guillermo Canas. He qualified for Valencia, and scored his first ATP win of the season over Stefan Koubek, and went on to the quarterfinal with a win over Alex Corretja. He beat Igor Andreev in a third set tiebreak at Barcelona, and then beat Felix Mantilla before losing to David Nalbandian. He made the second round at Queen's, and the second round at Stuttgart before losing to Zabaleta. Now he has another quarterfinal. His ranking has actually been slipping lately as he trades in challengers for ATP events. This should get him moving upward again. Now the question for him (as for so many Spaniards) is, can he transfer it to hardcourt?" As it turned out, he couldn't even keep it up on clay. This doesn't seem to have signified anything, except that Safin was in his usual summer doldrums.

August 12: Sopot - Second Round
Jose Acasuso def. David Ferrer (3) 6-4 7-6
At the time, we said, "And so the casualty rate rises to seven out of eight. Only one seed -- #6 Rafael Nadal -- is in the quarterfinal at Sopot. In one sense, this isn't a big surprise -- and not just because everyone is losing at Sopot. This is, after all, the tournament where Acasuso won his first and only career title in 2002. For the talented Argentine, who at not-quite-22 is already showing signs of underachieving, that comfort level is significant. Of course, Ferrer had reason to feel comfortable here, too, having made the final last year before losing to Guillermo Coria. But Ferrer, after bursting on the scene with a blaze of big results in late 2002, has turned very inconsistent, and is arguably playing too much to allow himself to really work out what he needs to work out (he played 27 events last year, and went only 20-27 after going 10-6 in 2002). He already has 21 events this year, and although he currently is #42 in the Race (compared to #52 in the rankings), that's bound to fall now that the clay season is over. The good news is, Sopot 2003 is already off the rankings, so the loss won't hurt the Spaniard. Acasuso has seen his ranking fall to #105, and his Race position is a mere #98. But he was doing absolutely nothing at this time last year. (From Valencia to the U. S. Open, he won only one match, and that one is already off.) Quarterfinalist points at a low-level event aren't much, but they should at least spell a return to the Top 100." A year later, both players here have made great strides -- but it's Ferrer who has been living up to his potential. Acasuso has cut his ranking in half, but still alternates solid spells with very bad ones, and will be falling now that these points are coming off.

August 15: Sopot - Final
Rafael Nadal (6) def. Jose Acasuso 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "One way or another, a streak would end here: Either Jose Acasuso's nine-match undefeated streak in Sopot, or Rafael Nadal's title-less streak. You had to think the odds were with Nadal, even so. He's the better player, and he came in more rested. And, for once, logic was actually right. Too bad it all gets overshadowed by the Olympics. The scores here don't affect the rankings in a meaningful way; they'll be used to seed Long Island, but Nadal won't be in Long Island. And the Olympics, which are worth more than twice as much as Sopot, will be what settles the U. S. Open seedings. And Nadal will go in tired. Still, he'll gain some 20 places in the rankings. Acasuso, #105 coming in, will move about 25 places himself -- though he also falls to 1-4 in finals. At least one person wondered if Nadal's win adds anything to the record books -- youngest ever, or some such. At 18 years and 2 months, it doesn't even threaten those sorts of records. But he is the youngest tournament winner in more than five years; the last player this age to pick up a title was Lleyton Hewitt at Delray Beach 1999 (and Hewitt was actually a few days older than Nadal is now, so the last player who was actually younger was Hewitt at Adelaide 1998)." A year later, we can say that, while it didn't mean much in the Great Balance of Things at the time, it was a definite foreshadowing of what was to come!

Five Years Ago: Gustavo Kuerten beat Marat Safin in the Indianapolis final for his first-ever hardcourt title -- obviously an important step toward reaching the #1 ranking that year. There was also a surprise at Washington, where Alex Corretja beat Andre Agassi.

Ten Years Ago: It's amazing to realize that both this week's winners are still around, if barely: Thomas Enqvist won Indianapolis, and Andre Agassi won New Haven.

08-11-2005, 07:48 PM
I love this thread, great work you guys :bigclap:

08-11-2005, 08:10 PM
Marat won the US Open in 2000, jackass

for the year, you stupid ass
otherwise it wouldn't say "and Roger had a slams under his belt" it would say "Roiger had 3 slams under his belt"

he was talking about 2004, genious :retard:

Thanks Fonsie :hug: -- it is kinda obvious that is in fact just.plain.stupid

08-18-2005, 05:06 PM
August 16: Olympics - First Round
Nicolas Massu (10) def. Gustavo Kuerten 6-3 5-7 6-4
At the time, we said, "Officially, this isn't an upset. Massu was the seed, and Kuerten wasn't. Still, there are reasons to question that. For starters, Kuerten was the top unseeded player. Based on this week's rankings, in fact, he should have been seeded; he came in ranked #20, ahead of Fernando Gonzalez (who earned the last seed) at #21. Massu was only a little higher (#14), and most of those points are on clay. Most of Kuerten's titles lately have been on hardcourts. Add it all up, and it's hard to see Massu as the actual favorite. Favorite or not, he's through. Which is important in a couple of ways. First, this win combined with the losses by Srichaphan and Pavel and Chela means that Massu is guaranteed to be Top 15 when the Olympics are over. Indeed, he's currently only 65 points behind #13 Marat Safin, meaning that he has a genuine shot at the #12 U. S. Open seed. Arguably, though, the result is bigger for Kuerten. Once again, he fails to win a long match -- something that used to be his specialty. He loses any chance of a Top 16 seed at the U. S. Open. He may even fall out of the Top 20.... Once again, Kuerten's story seems to be 'One step forward, one step back.'" A year later, that goes at least double. As for Massu -- well, we'll have more to say about him, so we'll leave it for now.

August 17: Olympics - Second Round
Tomas Berdych def. Roger Federer (1) 4-6 7-5 7-5
At the time, we said, "This is starting to look like a conspiracy. Is someone paying off Roger Federer to assure that he won't clinch the #1 ranking until at least the indoor season? It really did seem as if nothing was working for the Swiss. He couldn't get his serve in -- he ended up with ten double faults and only 49% of serves in. But what really hurt was his ground game. DecoTurf is probably the worst surface for Federer's shot mechanics, but who would have dreamed he would win only a third of the points on Berdych's second serve, and win only two of his seven break points? It was, to not exactly coin a phrase, ugly. Of course, it doesn't mean much in the short term. Federer was and remains #1 in the rankings; he was and remains #1 in the Race. But with Andy Roddick through, if barely, Federer -- for the second event in a row -- has failed to put another nail in Roddick's coffin.... Federer may not be trying to make things more interesting. He's succeeding even so. Berdych, of course, scores the biggest win of his life. But it's still only the Round of Sixteen at an optional event. The 19-year-old (he turns 20 in a month) will gain a few spots, but he needs more to really move up." Federer, of course, would clean things up for the U. S. Open. But it's funny how much this resembled his very sloppy Cincinnati opener. And his second round wasn't much better.

August 18: Olympics - Third Round
Fernando Gonzalez (16) def. Andy Roddick (2) 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "As the old song says, 'Do not let your chances like sunbeams pass you by, For you never miss the water till the well runs dry.' By the looks of things, Andy Roddick is going to be very thirsty very soon. Because he's once again blown a chance to gain on Roger Federer. Blown it completely. This doesn't budge either his Race or his Entry total at all; he has too much in his fifth tournament. This was an 80 Race point event, and he earned only an eighth of that. It was a strange match: Roddick got 75% of his first serves in, and hit 13 aces, and won 70% of first serve points, and 50% even on his second serve -- but he had his lapses. And Gonzalez capitalized very well, converting two of four break points against the guy who, last year, led the ATP in break points saved. And, even though Gonzalez's serve numbers were far less gaudy (less than half of first serves in), Roddick never broke, and earned only two break points. Gonzalez broke in the third game of the first set, and then in game nine of the second, and that was that. And so Roddick remains #2 in both Race and Entry rankings. He's safe there, with a large margin in each. But the goal surely is not to stay where he is.... Gonzalez came in at #21. The win assures that he will be Top 20 after the Olympics. He still needs another couple of wins (or a couple of withdrawals) to earn a Top 16 seed at the U. S. Open -- but it's looking more and more possible." We wouldn't say, in hindsight, that this was the loss that broke Roddick's back -- but note that he entered this week at #5....

August 19: Olympics - Quarterfinal
Nicolas Massu (10) def. Carlos Moya (3) 6-2 7-5
At the time, we said, "It's a good thing neither of these guys have a heart condition. We might not have just a winner and a loser on our hands; we might have a couple of cases of cardiac arrest. Anyone who thinks players don't care about the Olympics should have watched this match to show what players look like under emotional pressure. It showed in the results. Massu seemed to be shaking at various times in the match. But Moya seemed almost unable to hold his racquet. He produced 10 winners -- and 37 errors. His forehand -- his major weapon -- supposedly didn't produce a single winner. It was the sort of match where you go home, bury your head in your pillow, and wish that no one had been watching. In the short term, the big loser here is not Moya but Marat Safin. Safin was #13 coming into this match, but Massu now passes him... and that means that he'll be the #12 U. S. Open seed (higher if he can make the final). Moya stays #4, as we'd known he would. But Moya could have grabbed the #3 spot in the Race; instead, he stays at his current #4. And the events from now on are generally played on surfaces he doesn't like much. This was, arguably, his last big chance of the year. Massu has had a very difficult year this year, at least until he won Kitzbuhel. This is important in at least two ways: He managed to win a very big match. And he did it away from clay." We'll have more to say about Massu later. For Moya, the news is perhaps worse now than then: He has been having a tough year in 2005, and now he loses these points.

August 22: Olympics - Final
Nicolas Massu (10) def. Mardy Fish 6-3 3-6 2-6 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "The author reads Greek, a little. It's a bit irritating to see every logo scattered around the Olympic grounds in the Roman alphabet. Where is the chance to show off in that? Mardy Fish must know the feeling. Here he is, on the greatest stage of his life -- and he's up against an opponent who could hardly play. So what happened? Fish managed to find his own way to be unable to play. The match started off with Fish going down 0-5 in the first set. Pure nerves. Once he had made himself an incredible hole in the first set, he came to life, and even took a break back, but of course Massu won the set. Then, with Massu serving in game four of the second, the Chilean started to cramp. He held in that game, but Fish finally broke in game eight, and served out the set. The American broke to start the third, and that was more than enough. To add to it, Massu was warned for taking too long. But he called the trainer after the third set, and, somehow, he came back to life. Plus Fish, confronted with an actual lead, started making errors again. Massu broke in game four of the fourth set, and though Fish got the break back, Massu broke again. We had the same story in the fifth: A break for Massu (on a string of Fish errors), a break back, then, in game five, another break for Massu, and that was it. The record books are saying that Massu gave Chile its first two gold medals (one in singles, one in doubles). We'll have to confine ourselves to talking about the tennis. Massu, #14 coming in, wins the biggest title of his career in terms of points, and rises all the way to #11. More impressively, he did it on fast hardcourt. Fish came in at #35. He loses yet another final (he has a rather depressing collection of second places), but still moves up to #28. At least that translates into a U. S. Open seed...." A year later, both finalists find themselves all but dead. Fish's ranking is so low that he would have needed a wildcard to get into Cincinnati -- except that he was injured and unable to play. Massu played, but lost first round; he's out of the Top 50.

Five Years Ago: (We're out of phase here. To get the U. S. Open 2005 to line up with the U. S. Open 2000, we have to leave out a week.)

Ten Years Ago: (Again, we skip a week)

08-18-2005, 05:49 PM
I love this thread, great work you guys :bigclap:
thank U :shrug: :o but there's only one guy doing the job. The great TBE :hug: :yeah:

08-18-2005, 07:26 PM
thank U :shrug: :o but there's only one guy doing the job. The great TBE :hug: :yeah:

Okay :devil: Thanks TBE

08-25-2005, 07:39 PM
August 23: Long Island - First Round
Wayne Ferreira def. David Sanchez 6-2 6-3
At the time, we said, "All right, we'll confess: This is another Wayne Ferreira obituary. We don't know how much longer Wayne Ferreira is going to be playing -- but we know that it isn't going to be long. It would be no real surprise if he quits after the U. S. Open. And even if he doesn't, he's been playing like someone who is aware the end is near. It's been a surprisingly tough year for him; he's down to #108 in the rankings (meaning that the U. S. Open might be the last Slam he can get into anyway, unless he plays qualifying). His Race score is, admittedly, a little higher, but that's deceptive; he has had a terrible time in the Masters events and is certain to end the year lower than [even his current ranking] if he continues at his present level. And so there is the slight chance that this might be his last-ever ATP win. Probably not, but the possibility must be admitted. If so, it's a nice farewell: He beat a good, solid player quite routinely. It won't put him back in the Top 100 by itself. But who knows -- while it may be his last win, it may not be, too." As a matter of fact, it was (more on his retirement below). He would play one more match at Long Island, losing to Paradorn Srichaphan, then lost to Lleyton Hewitt at the U. S. Open.

August 24: Long Island - First Round
Jarkko Nieminen def. Robby Ginepri (WC) 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "This is one of those matches where you can't help but wonder what it means. Is Jarkko Nieminen back, or is Robby Ginepri slumping further? It's been a tough summer for both. Nieminen hurt himself this spring, and has been falling fast; #30 as recently as Estoril, he's now hovering around #70. Ginepri has been healthy, but he hasn't had nearly the results in 2004 that he had in 2003; having hit #25 after the Australian Open, and having managed a secondary peak of #29 at Wimbledon, he fell as low as #54 last week, though he's back in the Top 50 now. Still, given that he hasn't been out of action, his fall has been nearly as bad as Nieminen's. It wasn't exactly a serving contest. Nieminen earned the only break of the first set in game five, but in the second, Ginepri broke for 4-2, whereupon Nieminen broke back (with some help from the net), and picked up another break on a Ginepri error at 4-4, and that was that. It's only one match. It probably doesn't really tell us anything. But, on the evidence, Nieminen is snapping out of his funk faster." That statement was sort of true -- in the nine or ten months after this match, Nieminen did better. But, this summer, Ginepri has made up for it with interest.

August 25: Long Island - Second Round
Paradorn Srichaphan (4) def. Wayne Ferreira 7-6(7-3) 7-5
At the time, we said, "It never ceases to amaze the author how tennis tournaments find ways to shoot themselves in the foot with journalists. If they have a star player -- say Andre Agassi -- and they schedule him for a reasonable hour, they'll get coverage of his matches in the paper and people will say, 'Ooh! Agassi is playing at (wherever).' But no; they schedule Agassi for the late match all the time, so they never get much in the paper. And when you're Long Island and you don't have much in the way of star players, making every match a late match seems really a bad strategy. Take this match: This is the Match of the Day because the two matches before it didn't give us anything to say, and the match after it is running so late that we won't have time to write about it. But we don't have anything to say about this match, either. So we'll talk about Paradorn Srichaphan and Long Island. It was his first title, two years ago. It was the first (and, to date, only) title he's ever defended, last year. It's the only title he's won twice. And here he is in the quarterfinal for the third straight year. Think he likes this place? In terms of points, it does him no good. Srichaphan plays oodles of events, and has most of his success at optional tournaments (he has a couple of Masters semifinals, but generally he does very badly at required events). Even though Long Island 2003 is already off the books, he still hasn't gotten past his fifth optional event. Indeed, it hardly matters what he does here. But... a good result going into the U. S. Open could be just what the doctor ordered. Wayne Ferreira has now announced just when he'll retire: It will be after this fall's Davis Cup tie. So this won't be his last loss, and he'll have at least two more chances for a last win. But this might be his last tiebreak. If that matters." The win in fact didn't do anything for Srichaphan. As for Ferreira -- well, we covered that. We do note, of course, that Long Island is gone -- though probably not because of their habit of playing way too many late matches.

August 26: Long Island - Second Round
Juan Ignacio Chela (5) def. Thomas Enqvist 6-4 5-7 6-1
At the time, we said, "These days, the story of Thomas Enqvist's life seems to be 'not quite.' Enqvist, of course, ended up missing the end of the 2002 season, and a big chunk of 2003, with injuries. This year, things have been looking up a bit. After winning only one Slam match last year, he made the third rounds of all three Slams so far this year; after going 13-27 in 2003, he made his first semifinal of 2004 as early as Memphis; after ending last year at #95, he's up to #60 this year. But that's still a good distance below his peak. And that's deserved. Because he's also had a five match losing streak this year (six, if you don't count qualifying wins). He's still struggling to get past quarterfinals. He's still 'not quite.' And that seems to have cost him at the end. In terms of rankings, this doesn't make any real difference. Chela has done well enough this year that another optional quarterfinal doesn't make any difference. Enqvist could have used quarterfinal points -- but of course he didn't get them. And even he doesn't get much value out of second round points at a low-level optional event. If there are any effects at all, they will be psychological. But those, of course, are the most important kind." Indeed, we note that Enqvist a year later is ranked 100 place lower, and is invisible. Chela has also fallen badly, but at least he's showing life again.

August 29: Long Island - Final
Lleyton Hewitt (2) def. Luis Horna (9) 6-3 6-1
At the time, we said, "Trainers treating Tour players have lots of different medications in their arsenals: medications for cramps, for general pain relief, for cooling. Maybe they need one more: Antidepressants, for player who have to play against Lleyton Hewitt. You could see The Look on Luis Horna's face: 'How did he get to that?' 'How could anyone return that ball?' 'What does it take to win a point around here?' Whatever it takes, it was more than Horna had. There was only one game where he managed even to threaten Hewitt's serve, and of course Hewitt always gets into his opponents' service games. The Australian managed the key break in the middle of the first set, and from then on it was just a matter of rolling to the finish line. And rolling to his fourth title of the year, and second straight. With it, he moves up to #4 in the Race, and he's just about sure to overtake Guillermo Coria at the Open next week. There is just one fly in the ointment, and that's that all his titles are optional. Which means, first, that he doesn't move up much in the rankings (he came in #5, and there he stays). And second, he's filled almost all of his optional slots; at most, he can pick up about 50 more optional Race points this year, and 30 or so is more likely, and that's if he wins several big titles; small ones won't do. If he wants to end the year at #4, or even #5, he has to do it at the required events. Which, in practice, probably means the U. S. Open or nothing. And while he's won the Open before, he also comes in having played ten matches in the last two weeks.... Luis Horna, earlier this summer, was threatening the Top 30. He had slipped a little coming into this event, falling to #38. But that's without ever making a final in his career; unlike Hewitt, he had, and has, room to pick up optional points. He doesn't quite make it to the Top 30 with this result, but he's taken another step, both points-wise and psychologically. This should really help. As long as he doesn't have to face Hewitt again any time soon, anyway." Hewitt of course did what he had to do: He earned big U. S. Open points, and has been Top Four steadily since. But he hasn't been having a great summer this year, and he's under threat. As for Horna, he hasn't had a very good 2005 at all, and lost his opener here, and is falling fast.

Five Years Ago: It was almost the end for Magnus Norman, even though you couldn't see it at the time. He won Long Island over Thomas Enqvist -- the next-to-last title of his career.

Ten Years Ago: The week before the U. S. Open, and they still had a clay event scheduled! Thomas Muster won it, of course, beating Carlos Costa at Umag (the next-to-last final of Costa's career). Yevgeny Kafelnikov, meanwhile, was winning Long Island for the second straight year -- the first title he had ever defended, or indeed won twice.

09-07-2005, 01:17 PM
August 30: U. S. Open - First Round
Olivier Rochus def. Mario Ancic (27) 7-5 6-2 7-6(8-6)
At the time, we said, "Once again the rule proves true: You do not want to face Olivier Rochus on a fast court. On slow courts, his lack of a serve seems to be fatal. On fast stuff, where you can't return him to death, he's trouble. The service statistics reveal that point brilliantly. Ancic had 19 aces, Rochus none -- but Rochus actually won a higher percentage of points on serve than Ancic (75% on first serve, to 71% for the Croat, and 55% versus 43% on second serves). Ancic did manage more winners -- but he made far more errors; Rochus had only 12, and a ratio of winners to errors of 3:1. He had five break points, and converted them all. And he was drilling passing shots; Ancic was a mere 30 of 60 on net approaches. And so we had the first upset of the tournament, and it went, literally, to the little guy. In terms of rankings, this doesn't mean much. Ancic wasn't defending anything, so he will end up right around his current #29. Rochus lost first round last year, so he picks up a few points -- enough to put him back firmly in the Top 100 (he was an even #100 coming in). But that's all. Still, we're coming up on the indoor season; this might get him into a few more events, and if they're on a fast enough surface, maybe he can do some damage." .Given that he's Top 30, obviously Rochus did do some damage in that year -- only to have to defend the points now. Still, he's having a career year. As for Ancic -- well, this year, he finally won an Open match.

August 31: U. S. Open - First Round
Juan Carlos Ferrero (7) def. Tomas Zib (Q) 4-6 7-5 7-6(8-6) 6-7(4-7) 6-3
At the time, we said, "The really depressing part is that Juan Carlos Ferrero went through this for almost nothing. Almost nothing, as in he's defended 5% of the points he earned here last year when he made the final.... It was a match the Spaniard should have won repeatedly... by the end he was looking as if he were suffering physical problems [Zib was cramping].... He finished it off with another break, but you had to wonder how much longer he could have kept it up had Zib held in that game. And he faces Stefan Koubek next. Stefan Koubek, who makes points last as long as they possibly can.... If Ferrero loses his second round, he'll end up no better than #13, and he might well end up at #15 or even lower. And that's with the Madrid title still on his record. At the rate he's going, he will end the year below the Top 20. Ferrero won this match -- but it looks like a case of winning the battle and losing the war.... For Zib, this is probably the match of his life. And, in his case, just getting this far may do a little good. Last year, he lost in the second round of Open qualifying. At #141, the difference between second round of qualifying and main draw is significant. (As is the cash, for that matter.) He should gain about ten spots. Which still leaves him -- playing qualifying." Still playing qualifying, for a while -- not long; this seemed to inspire him, and this year he's been a solid Top 100 player. But Ferrero went on to lose to Koubek, and kept falling and falling. This year, of course, he's recovered a lot -- but he lost first round this year, killing his hopes for a return to the Top 20.

September 1: U. S. Open - First Round
David Nalbandian (8) def. Dennis van Scheppingen 6-4 7-6(7-5) 6-3
At the time, we said, "This is turning into the Open of Miracle Saves by players with a bunch of points on the line. Yesterday, it was Juan Carlos Ferrero. This time, it was David Nalbandian. Coming in, Nalbandian seemed the more dubious of the two. Ferrero was playing badly, but he was playing. Nalbandian had been effectively absent since Roland Garros: He'd earned exactly one Race point in that time. And it wasn't just one injury, either; each week brought something new. When asked to provide a list of players most likely to pull out of the Open, we had pegged Nalbandian at #2, right behind Guillermo Coria, who had already announced he was out. But there were few signs of trouble in the actual match. Admittedly Nalbandian wasn't facing much opposition; Dennis van Scheppingen is still a respectable #73 in the rankings, but that's mostly points from last fall; he's #116 in the Race, which probably translates to a year-end ranking around #130 if he doesn't pick things up. Still, Nalbandian came out and beat him efficiently. Points-wise, it's not much help; Nalbandian defends less than a tenth of what comes off next week. Still, it could be big in terms of rankings. He's now #14 in safe points, and well ahead of #15 Andrei Pavel.... It's only a start, but it's a lot better than we frankly expected." Unfortunately, Nalbandian lost in the next round, so he did take the fall, and his ranking has never quite recovered, though he'll be returning to the Top Ten now.

September 2: U. S. Open - Second Round
Michal Tabara (Q) def. Mardy Fish (26) 6-3 3-6 1-6 6-3 6-3
At the time, we said, "Where have we seen this scoreline before? No, it's not the same scoreline as in the Olympic final, but it's the same general feeling: Fish lost the first, took two, and then lost the last two. And while Michal Tabara wasn't as fatigued as Nicolas Massu, neither is he Nicolas Massu. We're talking about a guy with two ATP events this year, and no wins until this week.... In 2003, he didn't even make an ATP main draw. In 2002, he had four wins... the last time he won a Slam match was at the 2001 Australian Open. And he beat Fish on hardcourt. Urk. The only consolation for Fish is that he had lost in the second round last year also, so he doesn't actually lose any points. #28 coming in, he looks just about certain to stay Top 30; he might even gain a spot. But he was in Tim Henman's section; with Henman hurting, this was a very big chance completely blown. Tabara has been rebuilding his ranking this year after that disastrous 2002 and 2003; he came in ranked #149. This increases his point total by more than a quarter; he'll climb to about #115. Which will be a big help getting into tournaments. If he can keep this up, he just might be able to reach the Top 100 by year-end." A year later, Fish has been constantly injured, and lost first round, and is below where Tabara was last year. It's not reciprocal; Tabara has climbed a bit higher, but he won't be getting seeded at Slams any time soon.

September 6: U. S. Open - Fourth Round
Dominik Hrbaty (22) def. Olivier Rochus 2-6 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-0
At the time, we said, "Could his stunning win over Paradorn Srichaphan the round before have changed Dominik Hrbaty's life? Hrbaty, from the very start, has tended to do things under the radar. He first hit the Top 100 in 1996. With big wins? Hardly; he ended that year at #77, but had played only two ATP matches, both of which he lost; he did it with Challenger results. In 1997, he played his first Slam at the Australian Open, where he made the fourth round -- and then lost first round at the next three Slams. In 1998, he won his first title, but went a mere 3-4 at Slams and 1-3 at what would later be the Masters Series. In 1999, he had a breakthrough, reaching the Roland Garros semifinal -- and was 0-3 at the other Slams and barely broke even at the Masters. And so it went. In five years since, he's never repeated his Slam semifinal, has never won a Masters, has only one Masters final (Monte Carlo 2000, which may have set a record for weakest Masters field) and no other Masters semifinals. This year, of his 212 Race points entering the Open, 144 were earned at optional events. That's 68% of his points at optional events; Roger Federer, by contrast, has 18% of his points in optional events, and Andy Roddick 27%; the highest percent for any Top Ten player is Gaudio's 38%. It is a picture of a player who really, really can't win the big matches. But here he is, in his first U. S. Open quarterfinal, and having managed to pull out two matches he could reasonably have been expected to lose: First the match against Srichaphan, where he was playing a higher seed, and then this match, where he was down two sets and could easily have folded. Instead, he's put himself back in the Top 20 -- probably #17. And, who knows, maybe he's over his hump. After all, he now has 262 Race points (putting him at #12) -- meaning that he now has 45% of this points at required events. Olivier Rochus had never won a match at the U. S. Open entering this year; it was the only Slam where he was winless. And his ranking was down all the way to #100. Obviously the loss is very disappointing -- but it still lifts him to around #70, meaning that he at least will continue to earn direct entry into Slams and nearly every other event except the Masters." A year later, Hrbaty is about where he was after this match -- but Rochus has been hovering around #30 lately; in the evidence, it was a good event for both guys.

September 7: U. S. Open - Fourth Round
Joachim Johansson (28) def. Michael Llodra 6-2 6-3 6-2
At the time, we said, "And to think Joachim Johansson, at the end of last year, was a big tall guy who had never reached the Top 100 or won a Slam match. Obviously he's taken care of both of those problems. In fact, Johansson is making a pretty strong case for Most Improved Player this year. Certainly there won't be many who can top the 81 places he's gained since the end of the 2003 season. Johansson, surprisingly, didn't win this on his serve alone, though of course he was almost unhittable when he got his first serve in (88% of points won). But he had only ten aces, and Llodra almost matched that with nine. What put Johansson through so easily -- the whole match took only an hour and twenty minutes! -- was his winners. 42 of them, to 14 unforced errors.... And with it, Johansson grabs a spot in the Top 25. Probably #22. A career high, obviously. And Top 20 in the Race. And if he can play that well, who knows, maybe he isn't done. One more win, and of course he'll be Top 20. Of course, he'll have to deal with another guy with a cannon of a serve and the ability to hit winners from absolutely anywhere...." As you probably recall, Johansson got that win, and kept on climbing -- and then, earlier this year, ended up with a sore shoulder....

September 8: U. S. Open
No matches completed/rain

September 9: U. S. Open - Quarterfinal
Lleyton Hewitt (4) def. Tommy Haas 6-2 6-2 6-2
At the time, we said, "We've said it before and will doubtless say it again: The ATP rankings are designed to seed the U. S. Open. Look at the seeds in the men's semifinals, then look at the seeds in the women's quarterfinals, and say it isn't so. This is one of those matches you can't really say much about. It was just too utterly comprehensive.... [T]hat could well signal changes at the top. Tim Henman's win, earlier, had meant that Guillermo Coria would fall from #3 to #4, and Carlos Moya from #4 to #5. Now Hewitt -- who has won fifteen straight matches -- has booted Moya all the way down to #6; the Australian is barely behind Coria and not far behind Henman. Whichever of them lasts longer will be #3, with ties going to Henman. What's more, Hewitt is up to #3 in the Race, and he'll keep that spot even if Henman wins the Open. The Australian has nothing to defend this fall. If he doesn't make #3 this week, it probably won't be long. Indeed, he's getting rather close to #2 Andy Roddick. Especially given that Roddick lost in the night match. Tommy Haas, despite losing, is clearly back to being a significant force on the Tour. #45 coming in, he is just below the Top 30 in the rankings, and above that figure in the Race. He will surely be seeded at the Australian Open. And, in all likelihood, he'll just keep climbing from there." Haas, however, stalled, and his Open loss took him back to only a few spots higher than he was last year.

September 12: U. S. Open - Final
Roger Federer (1) def. Lleyton Hewitt (4) 6-0 7-6(7-3) 6-0
At the time, we said, "If you had asked on Saturday, most people would probably have said that Lleyton Hewitt is the most consistent hardcourt player now active -- maybe the most consistent hardcourt player ever. That was before Roger Federer took the court for the first set of this U. S. Open final. He was hitting winners from all over the court, and doing it without making errors. Plus he was serving spectacularly -- not hitting aces, but taking control of points from the start. It took nine games before poor Hewitt even took a game. We'd call it a clinic, except that there is no point in a clinic when no mere mortal can learn to imitate what Federer was doing. The second set was closer, as Federer, who has a history of lapses of concentration, came back to earth. It might have been really interesting had he not already won the first two games. But though Hewitt earned break points in several games, he never converted until the tenth game, in which Federer couldn't seem to string together two straight points. Hewitt broke to level the set -- but after trading two more games, Federer took charge in the tiebreak, and then the demigod was back in the third set. It wasn't that Hewitt was bad; it really wasn't. Federer merely played perfectly. You felt like telling people, 'Watch closely. You may never see the like again.' For Federer, this did it. He will be the year-end #1. There is nothing Andy Roddick, or Lleyton Hewitt, or anyone else can do about it. Federer leads Roddick by 440 Race points, and for the rest of the year, we have two Masters events (100 Race points each), the Masters Cup (150 points), and assorted optional events, at which Roddick, if he's lucky, can earn about 75-80 Race points. That still leaves him a few points behind Federer -- and that's if Federer doesn't play another match this year. Still, we have a solid contest for #2. By getting this far, Hewitt -- whose winning streak was snapped at 16 -- moves to within a few dozen points of Andy Roddick in the Race (he's a much weaker #3 in the rankings, but that's because Roddick played last fall and Hewitt didn't; Hewitt has every opportunity to move up during the indoor season). It's not quite a tie, but it's close -- and Hewitt, with two Masters Cups on indoor surfaces, and finalist showings at both Paris and Stuttgart, has far better indoor credentials than Roddick... But the big story remains Federer. He has his fourth Slam, and has won every Slam final he's ever played. He's the first player in sixteen years to win three Slams in a year. He's won every Slam except Roland Garros. And -- incidental footnote, but worth noting -- he has the biggest lead in the contest for #1 since additive rankings were adopted. And he just turned 23 five weeks ago. And he has nine titles already this year, with at least two on every surface except indoors, which is his favorite. It's hard to imagine where this will end." A year later, what can we say except that it hasn't ended yet? Hewitt of course spent many months at #2, but lately has been slipping as points come off.

Five Years Ago: It was a U. S. Open of firsts: Marat Safin won his first Slam, beating Pete Sampras in straight sets in the singles final -- and the next year's singles winner, Lleyton Hewitt, won his first Slam in the doubles as he and Max Mirnyi beat Ellis Ferreira and Rick Leach.

Ten Years Ago: In 1995, it was Sampras's turn; he beat Andre Agassi in a four-set final that did much to let Sampras stay the year-end #1. No big surprise in the doubles final: The Woodies took it. It was the first of three USO titles for Todd Woodbridge (Mark Woodforde had previously won it with John McEnroe) -- obviously a total neither will increase now. Been a long time since we've had a Slam without one or the other of that team.

09-22-2005, 11:00 AM
September 20-23:
No Matches Played -- Davis Cup

September 26: Davis Cup -- Austria hosts Great Britain
Stefan Koubek def. Greg Rusedski 7-6(7-2) 6-4 7-5
At the time, we said, "The difference between the good players and the great is that the great can pull off the second miracle.... Rusedski had managed his first miracle of the Davis Cup tie when he beat Jurgen Melzer, Austria's top player, in the opening singles round. That was on Saturday, with Britain down 1-0 after Stefan Koubek disassembled Tim Henman and with Austria having the advantage, in a two day tie (all action on Friday had been washed out by rain), that they actually had two players for singles and two players for doubles. Rusedski had beaten Austria's best player... to put Britain even. They lost the doubles, it's true, but Henman had overcome his problems enough to beat Melzer and level the tie, and so Rusedski had the chance to be the hero. Problem is, this is clay. The only surface where Rusedski has never won a title; he has only one clay final, and that long ago. He has a winning record at every Slam -- except Roland Garros. He's never been past the Round of Sixteen at a clay Masters, and has won less than a quarter of his matches, even though he is distinctly over .500 at the others (well, excluding the Canadian Open). On this surface, after two best-of-five matches, there just wasn't enough left. And so it's Koubek, not Rusedski, who gets to be the hero, having won both his matches, including the decider. That has to feel really, really good. Koubek has been facing a lot of disappointments lately, and Austria has been looking mostly to Melzer for its triumphs. Given that the clay season is over, that's probably a smart choice; we aren't likely to hear much more from Koubek this year. But this triumph was his." A year later, Koubek hasn't had many such great days lately.. But maybe this still counts for something.

Five Years Ago: Yevgeny Kafelnikov did love his Rebound Ace... having won the Australian Open in 1999, in 2000 he won the Olympics on the stuff. It wasn't his last title (he would win five more in the next two years) -- but it was his last big one.

Ten Years Ago: No Events Played

09-29-2005, 05:03 PM
September 27: Bangkok - First Round
Thomas Johansson def. Feliciano Lopez (6) 6-1 2-6 7-6(7-5)
At the time, we said, "This was the match that had everything. For the drama buffs, we had the aging veteran trying to make a comeback. We had the brash young kid with all the power. We had the day's only upset. And we had a spectacular match in which Thomas Johansson saved two match points before finally coming through. Now if only it meant something.... For Lopez, it literally made no difference at all. This wasn't a great time for him last year; he lost first round at Long Island, the U. S. Open, and Moscow. That last result comes off this week, but of course he replaces it with another first round loss. He isn't going to move more than a place or two. For Johansson, the points may potentially count, since he isn't defending anything, but he's been back long enough now that second round results at optional events don't mean anything worth noticing. What slight significance it has is in the Race: Johansson came in at #37. This just might gain him a spot or two. He will certainly move up if he can win another round or two. And, of course, he's getting close to that magic #32 that will get him an Australian Open seed. Barring another injury, it looks like he'll make it." A year later, of course, he's back to about where he was before his injury: Hovering mostly in the #15-#25 range. Though this didn't have that much role in that.

September 28: Shanghai - First Round
Glenn Weiner def. Mark Philippoussis (4) 3-6 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "At least Mark Philippoussis can take comfort in the fact that he's already suffered the hit for this. Philippoussis was last year's Shanghai champion. But those points came off last week, which is why he dropped 28 places between last week and this. But that, of course, was back when he was playing pretty well. This year, he hasn't been having much luck, and he reportedly was too injured to play Davis Cup.... Weiner, in fact, has been inflicting a fair number of nasty surprises on opponents this year. At least compared to his historical results. He made the second round of the Australian Open as a qualifier. He made the second round at Indian Wells as a qualifier. He beat Hyung-Taik Lee at Los Angeles before losing to eventual finalist Nicolas Kiefer. It's shown in his ranking: He's up to #128, after finishing last year at #278. In the short term, this doesn't do him any good, really. Weiner played only one ATP match last year, at Tokyo, where he qualified and then lost to Fernando Verdasco, so he'll lose about as much as he gains for this win. And he has a lot of Challenger results to defend in the next two months: A semifinal at Quito, and another at Austin, and a quarterfinal at Puebla. But if he keeps playing at his present level, he just might be able to defend that and then some. Philippoussis, as noted, has already seen his points from winning Shanghai 2003 come off. Unfortunately, he made the quarterfinal at Tokyo the following week, so he still has a few more points to lose. It appears his Top 100 ranking is history. The only consolation is, all he has to defend after this is a pair of opening-round losses. And, with his ranking down where it is, he's out from under required and optional. Any wins he can scrape up will count. Assuming he finds a way to actually earn some wins." A year later, there isn't much we can say except that this is a pretty typical result for Philippoussis these days -- he lost first round this week also. But Weiner hasn't done anything to back up his success; he's still playing at the same (low) level.

September 29: Palermo - Second Round
Olivier Mutis def. (6) Rafael Nadal (WC) 6-3 6-3
At the time, we said, "Maybe Olivier Mutis can only win the impossible matches.... Mutis, of course, is the guy who beat Andy Roddick at Roland Garros -- admittedly the Slam where you want to face Roddick if you have to face him at all, but still, Roddick was and is #2 in the world. Then Mutis proceeded to lose first round at Amersfoort to Hernandez, first round at Umag to Vliegen, second round at Sopot to Garcia; he lost in qualifying at Long Island, though he made the main draw as a Lucky Loser and was thumped; he lost first round at the U. S. Open to Baghdatis. Not exactly the name you think of when trying to imagine someone headed for the top echelons of the game. And here he is, knocking out Rafael Nadal, who -- if he can stay healthy -- probably is headed for the top. Certainly Mutis could use a quarterfinal right about now. His last one was all the way back at Sopot 2003. The points aren't big. Last year, Mutis made the second round at Metz, so he gains only 25 points. But he came in at #113; at that level, 25 points counts. He should gain about eight spots. For Rafael Nadal, the vaguely good news is that, at this time last year, he was in a horrible funk, losing all four of his ATP matches after the U. S. Open. (Clearly he hasn't solved indoor surfaces yet.) So he had nothing to defend, and won't be hurt in the rankings. But, of course, he missed his last chance to move up on clay." A year later, it hardly matters to Nadal what happened here. But Mutis has been completely invisible this year, and has fallen below #300, and now he'll lose more points.

September 30: Bangkok - Second Round
Dennis van Scheppingen def. Taylor Dent (5) 6-0 6-4
At the time, we said, "It really does seem to be a rule: Every time Taylor Dent starts to climb the rankings, something goes wrong with him. Usually it's his back. But it hardly matters what the details are. What matters is, it happens. And that's quite a blow, because Dent was having the best stretch of his career at this time last year. He won Bangkok, which was small (at least in terms of points), and backed it up by winning Moscow, which wasn't small at all. His drop in the rankings isn't going to be small, either. Just a month ago, he was #22; just last week, he was still #29. But then Bangkok 2003 came off, and he fell to #34. Now he sees a 50 Race point event come off -- more than a quarter of his total points, though the blow is buffered a little by the fact that it's an optional event. Still, he appears bound out of the Top 50. And there isn't much reason to think it will get better; he came in at #48 in the Race, and it looks as if he'll be falling. Of course, he loves fast courts, so he still has a chance to gain some ground this fall (after winning Moscow, he won only one more match for the rest of 2003). But his chances of earning a seed at the Australian Open look close to dead.... Dennis van Scheppingen continues his mysterious habit of winning only in the fall. Unfortunately for him, he reached the third round at Tokyo at this time last year, so even though he earns a very nice win, it isn't going to affect his ranking very much." A year later, we can only say that Dent has managed to rebuild his ranking a bit, and is probably more consistent day in and day out -- but he also seems to have just about stopped winning titles. Whatever that says.

October 3: Palermo - Final
Tomas Berdych (8) def. Filippo Volandri (5) 6-3 6-3
At the time, we said, "Roger Federer won again. Ho-hum. Guillermo Canas is dominating small events. What else is new? Tomas Berdych, now, he's news. We've already seen people wondering if the just-barely-19-year-old from Prostejov might not be the major competition for Roger Federer in two or three years. He did, after all, have that win over Federer at the Olympics. That seems, dare we say, a little too optimistic. Still, Berdych does look like a genuine candidate for Next Big Thing. This is a guy who, two years ago, was below #500 and had never played an ATP match. At this time last year, he had three Tour matches, and only one win. He ended [2003] below #100. And this year? The odd thing is, until the Olympics, he hadn't beaten anyone in particular. Then in Athens he beat Florian Mayer in the first round, Federer in the second, Tommy Robredo in the third. Obviously that turned things around: entering this week, he had pushed his ranking to #55 (lower in the Race, but that's because he was still playing Challengers to start the year). And now he adds his first title. It wasn't even much of a contest; he never faced a break point, and wrapped up the title in less than an hour. As a result, Berdych will be reaching a career high; this puts him in the Top 40. (For that matter, Volandri hits the Top 40 also.) Nor does he have much left to defend this year; his biggest result in the final part of 2003 was a semifinal at the Bratislava Challenger. At the rate he's going, it looks as if he just might earn an Australian Open seed. Pretty good for a guy who, until this week, had never been past the quarterfinal of an ATP-level event." The problem was, Berdych seems to be really streaky. He didn't do anything else for the rest of the year. And, a year later, he lost first round at Palermo and will be in free fall.

Five Years Ago: It was, dare we say, a small cloud on the horizon? Olivier Rochus, 19 years old, won his first and, to date, only title at Palermo.

Ten Years Ago: A busy week: Jim Courier won Basel, Marcelo Rios won Kuala Lumpur, and Francisco Clavet took the title at Palermo. It was only the second title for Clavet, five years after his first, and the first carpet title for Rios.

09-29-2005, 10:55 PM
I can't wait until Roland Garros 2008, when the 10 years ago will say, "At this time, Carlos Moya was a winner."

this was fun to read. how did I miss this thread?

09-30-2005, 05:04 AM
holy shit, i read the whole first post and was thinking "hmmmm...clavet won scottsdale last year?" wow, i'm such a freaking genius...

interesting thread, btw

10-13-2005, 06:25 PM
two weeks :p

October 4: Lyon - First Round
Ivan Ljubicic def. Arnaud Clement (WC) 6-4 7-6(7-1)
At the time, we said, "Earlier this year, Arnaud Clement was talking about raising his sights for the year. He wanted to do better than just end up in the Top Fifty. Maybe he should have been happy as he was. Since the grass season, he's been a wreck. He lost first round at Wimbledon, first round at Cincinnati, second round at the Olympics, first round at the U. S. Open, first round at Bucharest, and was blown out in Davis Cup. And it was already a lousy month. Last week, his title at Metz came off, causing him to drop from #62 to #82. Now he loses finalist points from Lyon last year. And that means -- he can bid the Top 100 goodbye.... Last year, Ljubicic reached the second round of Lyon also. Not that second round points would matter anyway. There is one interesting point: Last year, he lost to Rainer Schuettler. This year, they could meet in the quarterfinal -- if Schuettler lasts that long. Not a great bet, these days." A year later, Clement took a very long time to get back into the Top 100, but he is showing life again. Ljubicic of course started 2005 very well, but faded -- except in Davis Cup. In any case, these points really don't matter much to him.

October 5: Lyon - First Round
Agustin Calleri def. Nicolas Massu (1) 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "Injuries being what they are this year, every time a player comes back, we have a sort of bet with ourselves: 'Is he ready?' Agustin Calleri started the year pretty well. A semifinal at Doha. A final at Costa do Sauipe. Fourth round at Indian Wells. Quarterfinal at Miami. Quarterfinal at Barcelona. But then he pulled out of Rome, skipped Hamburg, and retired from his opening round match at Roland Garros. He tried to come back at Bastad, and lost first round (though it was a close contest against Tommy Robredo). He won a match at the Olympics, but withdrew from the second round. And hasn't played since. By the looks of things, he's finally right. This is his first convincing win over a top player since Barcelona. Which, of course, he needed; with all those false comeback attempts, he wasn't going to be getting any sort of injury protection. Unfortunately for him, this does him no good, points-wise. Last year at this time, he reached the second round at Vienna -- a bigger tournament.... But the flip side of the coin is, he didn't win another match after that one last year. Assuming he can play at all, he has nowhere to go but up. Which would be nice, considering that his ranking more than twice what it was at this time last year. Massu, for the moment, isn't hurt by the loss; he went down first round at Vienna last year. But the week after Vienna was Madrid -- and he made the final there. Madrid won't be played for another week this year -- but Massu now guaranteed to fall dramatically next week, even if he does something solid in his next tournament." Massu did indeed fall dramatically, and has really never been the same since. Calleri slid for a long time, too, though he seems finally to be getting a little better. Except -- he lost to Calleri again this year.

October 6: Lyon - First Round
Hicham Arazi def. Rainer Schuettler (2) 6-4 1-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "It never ends for Rainer Schuettler. Not just another loss, but a loss on carpet to Hicham Arazi. That's somewhere between embarrassing and mortifying, tending toward the latter. It's also singularly ill-timed. Because Schuettler was last year's Lyon champion. In fact, he was defending champion of both this week's events. But Tokyo was already off. Lyon comes off now. And that means -- yet another fall in the rankings. Schuettler, who last year was within a few strokes of reaching #5 in the world, came to Lyon ranked #15. It's a little too early to say that this will drop him out of the Top 20; he might be able to stay at #20. But no higher, and it could be lower. And he's only #30 in the Race, and almost certainly will go lower, since players below him are still in action. And his poor Race numbers will soon be reflected in his ranking. He does, after all, still have his Masters Cup points. And those are surely history, since he won't be [going] back. Schuettler had raised his ranking every year since he turned pro. That is functionally no longer possible. Schuettler has 171 Race points. The current #5, Guillermo Coria, has 480. So to pass Coria, Schuettler would have to win both fall Masters and at least two other titles -- and that assumes that no one else overtakes Coria. Schuettler would need three titles to get to the Masters Cup. And he hasn't won a title all year; were it not for his one big result at Monte Carlo, he would be below #50 in the Race. By the looks of his recent results, things may well get worse before they get better. For Arazi, of course, second round points at a low-level event don't mean anything. But to win a tough match on carpet has to feel good at least." Given that Schuettler has been around #100 lately, obviously things did get worse for the German -- and show few signs of getting better. On the other hand, he's healthy; Arazi has missed almost the whole year.

October 7: Lyon - Second Round
David Ferrer def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (3) 3-6 7-5 6-3
At the time, we said, "This is definitely one of those days when the fates aren't being kind to the tennis press. After all of Juan Carlos Ferrero's success last year, it became so natural to type 'Ferrero' that sometimes 'Ferrer' gets that extra 'o' on the end even when the two Spaniards are on different continents. And here we have to talk about them playing the same match. By itself, this isn't that bad a loss for Juan Carlos Ferrero. David Ferrer, after all, is a very patient, quick-moving sort of guy; he'll get everybody once in a while on a bad day. It's the pattern we're seeing for Ferrero. He started the year well, with a semifinal at the Australian Open and a final at Rotterdam (though even that followed a first round loss to Guccione at Sydney). But then came the sickness and the nagging injuries and all the losses.... A year ago, Ferrero was #1 in the world. Now, he isn't even Top Ten. And here, on an indoor court -- a surface where he should be much better than Ferrer; he does after all have a Masters Cup final indoors -- he's out again. When does it end? For the moment, this doesn't hurt Ferrero; he didn't play at this time last year. But Madrid is only a week away. If he doesn't get better soon, he'll end up below #20. And start the year with all those points to defend. Somebody get the guy some help!" A year later, happily, Ferrero is playing much better. But he's still barely Top 20 -- and ranked behind Ferrer!

October 10: Lyon - Final
Robin Soderling def. Xavier Malisse 6-2 3-6 6-4
At the time, we said, "Whatever you do, don't take a job as Xavier Malisse's cardiologist. Or the guy who has to keep him supplied with blood pressure medication. Poor Malisse came into this final with a truly unenviable record: Five finals, no titles (cue Anna Kournikova joke #3,153). He once made the Wimbledon semifinal. He's been Top 20. He has the game. But the heart? You could feel the nerves from a continent away. Soderling is a very big server -- but Malisse is a fine returner; he had the tools to win this match. Except that the only time he played his best was in the second set, when he was down. And so he falls to 0-6 in finals.... Still, the points count... he'll gain more than a dozen places from his current #58. Soderling, whose ranking had peaked at #37 this summer, had taken a of a slide recently after his Shanghai semifinal came off; he was #50 two weeks ago, and #47 this week. This obviously halts that slide (though he has the Stockholm final coming off in a few weeks). This will easily put him back into the Top 40, and earn him a career high. A few more good wins and he'll earn an Australian Open seed. And, with a title in only his third career final, he clearly won't be going the way of Malisse." A year later, Malisse finally won a final, but it certainly hasn't made him consistent. And Soderling has started to ride the injury train....

Five Years Ago: It was a surprising quiet week; Nicolas Kiefer won the only tournament played, topping Mark Philippooussis at Hong Kong. It was the fifth title Kiefer had won in a year and a half, and it marked the beginning of his Great Drought.

Ten years ago: Philippoussis was a loser this week too, falling to Marcelo Rios at Kuala Lumpur (the third title Rios won in 1995, and his first-ever title away from clay). Arnaud Boetsch, meanwhile, won his third and last career title, topping Jim Courier at Toulouse.

October 11: Moscow - First Round
Igor Kunitsyn def. Tomas Berdych (6) 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "How fickle is the tennis fan When first a young gun falters --
Who just last week was labelled great, But now the times must alter. It's truly amazing: Tomas Berdych won his first title just two weeks ago, but after this loss, we saw a posting calling his entire career a fluke. Considering that the kid's ranking has gone up just about every week of his entire pro career, that seems, at the least, premature. The truth would seem to be that Berdych is simply young: He has a good solid all-around game, with a lot of power, but he's still learning to harness it. He is still working on a Plan B. Admittedly losing to Igor Kunitsyn is unpromising, given the guy's failure to ever win an ATP match (for the record: Kunitsyn had no ATP matches this year of any sort. Last year, he twice was given direct entry into events, and played qualifying 12 times, making it to the main draw only once, at Wimbledon; in 2002, his only time through qualifying was at the U. S. Open). But he is Russian, and a wildcard; the crowd would have been very much on his side. Berdych probably just wasn't ready for that. We'd still expect him to recover quickly. It doesn't appear that this will affect his ranking at all; this was a quiet time for him. His next significant result is a semifinal at the Bratislava Challenger in November -- and even that isn't all that big when one is at his level. For Kunitsyn, #216 in the world, this is of course very big, though even for a guy ranked where he is, the points aren't huge; he'll gain about two dozen spots. But he has an actual ATP win. Don't hold your breath waiting for another." We hope you didn't, because of course Kunitsyn didn't go anywhere. Berdych did go into a long stall, to be sure, but he seems to be breaking out of it at last. Or at least he was until he got sick and had to start playing indoors.

October 12: Vienna - First Round
Davide Sanguinetti def. Mariano Zabaleta 7-6(9-7) 7-5
At the time, we said, "And here we were hoping we'd get another Argentine back.... Mariano Zabaleta hasn't technically been missing all that long. But that shows how complicated it can be to determine who is 'out' and who isn't. Zabaleta played the U. S. Open -- but lost first round to Dmitry Tursunov, and also lost first round in doubles. He played the Olympics -- but, again, lost first round, to Hyung-Taik Lee, and lost first round in doubles. To find the last match he won, you have to go all the way back to Cincinnati, and the last event where he really played well was Kitzbuhel. And here we have yet another disappointing loss. Yes, Davide Sanguinetti is the standard 'crafty veteran' -- but he's also down to #97 in the world.... This result really seems to imply that Zabaleta still isn't fully back. The good news for the Argentine is, he didn't win a match after Cincinnati last year, so he can't possibly fall appreciably in the rankings. If he can get on track in the next few weeks, he has nowhere to go but up. But, by the looks of things, he keeps coming back too soon. For Sanguinetti, this comes at a very good time. 51 weeks ago, he reached the semifinal at Stockholm, his second best result of 2003, and now the best result he has on his record. Second round points at Vienna won't help him much -- but he needs a good result this week or next if he is to stay in the Top 100." A year later, Zabaleta still doesn't have his game together -- but Sanguinetti has made a nice comeback; he's been around #50 lately.

October 13: Moscow - Second Round
Radek Stepanek def. Marat Safin (1) 7-6(10-8) 4-6 6-3
At the time, we said, "Marat Safin is not the only player who defies almost all outside understanding. Radek Stepanek hasn't Safin's raw power, but he's been almost as up-and-down. As witness his career numbers. At the end of 1997, about the time of his nineteenth birthday, he was #381. He rose to 164 the next year, and stayed about there in 1999, playing his first ATP matches. Then -- pfft! -- no ATP matches and a ranking of #275 in 2000, and down all the way to #547 at the end of 2001 (and that wasn't even the bottom). Then he hooked up with Petr Korda, and rose to #63 in 2002, and #46 at the end of last year. Only to fizzle again this year. As of this week, he's down to #70, and has been hovering a few spots below that over the last couple of months. There is no obvious problem -- but he hasn't been doing much that's very impressive, either. It took him until Munich to reach his first quarterfinal of the year. He had another at Queen's, and at Gstaad, and Stuttgart, but that's been it -- he ended up playing qualifying at Lyon! This doesn't break the pattern of never-getting-past-the-quarterfinal, of course, but it's hard to imagine a much tougher win: Over Marat Safin in Russia. Just another Marat Safin match, right? And, because Stepanek has had such bad results this year, he gets to keep the points, or most of them. He wasn't defending anything; indeed, he didn't win a match after the U. S. Open last year, so anything he can earn is to the good. And he's ranked low enough that he doesn't have to play the indoor Masters. He's at a bad spot in the rankings, but he still should gain two or three spots. And confidence. Safin last year at this time was still in recovery mode; he played five matches from Los Angeles on and lost all of them. So this won't affect his ranking. But the essential problem remains: He's still doing the Safin Stumble." Safin's problems didn't last much longer last year; he was about to start on the best four-month stretch of his career -- but, of course, he's come apart this year. Whereas Stepanek has had the best year of his career.

October 14: Vienna - Second Round
Guillermo Canas (6) def. Taylor Dent 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "If there were any lingering doubts about Guillermo Canas's recovery, this really ought to end them. That's not to deny that Canas has come back strong. You don't win three titles on two different surfaces by being weak!. But Canas's game consists of two parts: His legs, and his arms. There was no question that his legs were back. But how would he do on fast courts? This was not self-evident.... His 2004 fastcourt results weren't much of a test, but they weren't encouraging. This, clearly, is more promising. This isn't the fastest indoor court you'll ever see -- it's an indoor hardcourt, after all, not carpet. But, still, it's indoors. A good Dent situation, and not a very nice place for Canas. And while Canas was probably more rested, they had both just flown in from the Far East, so that wasn't much of a factor. The question now is, Can the Argentine actually stay healthy enough to take advantage of his much-improved ranking? .In terms of the rankings, this doesn't mean much. Canas had finished his season last year with a loss in Lyon qualifying, so he wasn't defending anything -- but the one big problem with his record this year is that most of his points are at optional events. This is a big enough event that it will push his point total up a little, but not enough to really make a difference. As for Dent, he has only one more win to defend for the rest of the year, so early losses don't directly hurt. But on the other hand, he lives for the fastcourt season; slow hardcourts and clay are not for him. This is when he needs to earn as many points as possible. And, this week at least, he failed." On the other hand, a year later, Dent at least hasn't been suspended for two years....

October 17: Vienna - Final
Feliciano Lopez (8) def. Guillermo Canas (6) 6-4 1-6 7-5 3-6 7-5
At the time, we said, "It was one of those matches that was close only part of the time. Canas periodically seemed quite dominant, twice winning five games in a row. He earned more breaks than Feliciano Lopez (six versus five), and also won more points (155 to 141). But almost exactly three and a half hours into the match, at 5-5 in the fifth set, Lopez picked up a break point, and Canas double-faulted, and then Lopez served it out.... It took long enough. And we aren't talking about the 215 minutes it took to play the match. When Feliciano Lopez reached the Wimbledon fourth round in 2002, everyone thought that that big lefty serve and strong forehand would take him places fast. It never seemed to happen. In the next year and a half, he managed to hit the Top 30, but never a final. That came earlier this year, but never a title. Finally, the wait is over. And with it, he's back in the Top 30. It doesn't mean much because we're in a week when... six optional events count toward the rankings, but it's important, obviously, for his seeding in the months to come. As for Canas, his numbers don't mean much either -- but, because this is a bonus tournament, he earns as many points as he would have gotten for winning a smaller title. And, for the moment, that counts, and puts him back in the Top 20. It's going to be harder next year, since he's ranked high enough to get direct entry into everything. But who is going to bet against him after his results in the past four months?" Canas in fact would make it all the way to the Top Ten before he was suspended. It was Lopez who stalled; this didn't really lead to anything much, though he hasn't fallen either.

[b]Five Years Ago: Sjeng Schalken won at least one title (though usually no more than one) every year from 1995 to 2003 except 1998. This was the week he won the biggest one: He topped Nicolas Lapentti at Tokyo. That same week, Tim Henman beat Tommy Haas at Vienna.

Ten Years Ago: Mark Philippoussis was a loser for the second straight week, losing to Michael Chang at Tokyo. Wayne Ferreira, meanwhile, was winning the third of his four 1995 titles, beating MaliVai Washington at Ostrava.

10-21-2005, 02:00 PM
October 18: Madrid - First Round
Mardy Fish def. Mario Ancic 0-6 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "Don't ask us what happened here. We've no clue. The best we can do is talk about what this means. About this time of the year, our Matches of the Day get attain a certain air of predictability. Each day, we cross people off the list of theoretical candidates for the Masters Cup; occasionally, we even get to qualify someone. There were no qualifiers on this day. There weren't many eliminations, either; with a third of the Top 25 not playing and the rest given byes, we weren't in position to clarify much. We did eliminate Sjeng Schalken -- but, given his health, there wasn't a prayer of him actually qualifying. The others in action weren't really much better prospects. Mario Ancic was as close as we got. He came in at #24 in the Race -- a pretty low standing, but at least he could dream: One Masters title and one final and he would make it. Not now.... This was big for Mardy Fish in a different way. He was last year's Stockholm winner, and even with those points, was barely clinging to the Top 30. This won't keep him there -- if he loses his next match, he'll end up around #36 -- but at least he still has a chance. In fact, theoretically, he even has a chance for the Masters Cup. Unlike Ancic." That was then. A year later, of course, Fish has hardly been able to play, and is well below #100, and now will be falling even lower. Whereas Ancic, though his Masters Cup hopes are pretty dead and he again lost too early, at least was ranked high enough to get a seed at Madrid 2005.

October 19: Madrid - Second Round
David Nalbandian (4) def. Robin Soderling 7-6(7-5) 6-3
At the time, we said, "If anyone can interfere with the Marat Safin/Andre Agassi party at the Masters Cup, it's probably David Nalbandian.... That's not opinion; it's pure math. Safin and Agassi are relatively close together in the contest for the final Masters Cup spot, and with Guillermo Coria not likely to play, odds are that Agassi and Safin will both qualify. But who is next in line? Nalbandian. And few are the other candidates below him. Next below Nalbandian is Dominik Hrbaty, who doesn't like fast courts or required events; he isn't much of a factor. Sebastien Grosjean is hurt. Joachim Johansson likes fast surfaces, but he's 27 Race points behind Nalbandian, and inconsistent.... And so it goes. This isn't Nalbandian's best surface -- it may, in fact, be his worst -- and he has about fifteen body parts that can break down at any moment. But he is good anywhere, and when he's 'on,' he's incredibly dangerous. And it looks as if he's distinctly 'on' right at the moment. Robin Soderling won his first career title two weeks ago, and his confidence is high. He likes indoor courts a lot, and he plays well on them. And Nalbandian handled him reasonably easily. The Swede went up 4-1 in the first set, but then Nalbandian kicked into gear, getting the break back as Soderling served for the set, then breaking in game three of the second and cruising from there. That of course eliminates Soderling from the Masters Cup Race. Not that there was any real chance he's be playing in Houston. It really is Nalbandian or nothing.... With this win, he's within 70 points of both Safin and Agassi. And, of course, with lots of slots left in his optional five if he loses early here and wants to play next week." Too bad he would end up hurt at the end of the month. Interestingly, a year later, he's still probably the guy with the best chance to bother the Masters Cup leaders. If he can stay healthy this year, anyway.

October 20: Madrid - Second Round
Luis Horna def. Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3 6-1
At the time, we said, "Maybe, rather than trying to play Paris, Juan Carlos Ferrero should go home and bury his head in a pillow and hope that 2004 was just a bad dream. His opponent even twisted his ankle early in the match, and still cleaned the Spaniard's clock. Technically, this hardly affects Ferrero at all, even though he was last year's Madrid champion. Those points came off last week -- and caused him to fall all the way to #30 in the world. He wasn't defending anything this week; indeed, he has only one more win this year. So he'll stay right around #30 for another week. But this was as close as he would get to a chance to recoup some ground. This is, after all, Spain. That really does raise the question about whether he should play Paris. What he needs to do is fix his game. Somehow. If that means walking away to heal, or to just get this out of his system, he should do it. Though it does pose a nasty dilemma. He did win that one match at Paris (though he lost all three of his Masters Cup matches). Given where he stands in the rankings (and the Race), defending those points could well spell the difference between being seeded or unseeded at the Australian Open. Glad we don't have to decide what he should do. For Luis Horna, this is another good result in what has been the best year of his career. It won't help him as much as you'd think, though. Last year, Horna finished his season with a first round loss at the Barcelona Challenger; that came off two weeks ago. But, last year, he wasn't playing under required and optional; his ranking was too low. So he gains 75 points, but has to give some of them back; he'll climb a little, but... not much." And, a year later, he has been largely unable to defend his points. Ferrero, happily, is back to being a player again, though, and should have had a chance to gain ground here -- but he again lost his opener.

October 21: Madrid - Third Round
Ivan Ljubicic def. Tim Henman (1) 6-4 4-6 6-2
At the time, we said, "Tim Henman was worried about this match. After about a month off with back and shoulder problems, he hadn't had much chance to prepare for Ivan Ljubicic's power. His worries were well-founded.... Henman, who won his first-ever Masters title at Paris last year, has no real cushion when his Paris points come off next week. He will fall to about his current Race position -- currently #6, but the tournament isn't over; Marat Safin or Andre Agassi could pass him with a title.... Henman still looks good for the Masters Cup -- but he won't clinch until we're absolutely dead sure that Guillermo Coria won't play. Of course, Henman didn't play Houston last year, either, so that won't hurt him -- but he's running out of chances to set any additional career marks. He would really like to have a high seed at Wimbledon, for instance. As for Ljubicic, he's up into the Top 25 in the Race, with a shot for a year-end Top 20 ranking. And he has one of the best wins of his career. We're now down to 17 players with Masters Cup chances remaining: The clinched (Federer, Roddick, Hewitt, Moya, Coria if he can play, and Gaudio), the likely (Henman), the serious contenders (Safin, Agassi, Nalbandian, Johansson), and six others: Robredo, Hrbaty, Grosjean (who can't play), Canas, Ljubicic, and Dent. (If Coria withdraws, then Spadea, Massu, Haas, and Chela are still theoretically in contention.)" A year later, this begins to look rather like the beginning of a very long end for Henman -- and the start of the rise that has Ljubicic thinking at least vaguely about the Top Ten. Henman did win one match, but lost his second, and may well end the year below #30.

October 24: Madrid - Final
Marat Safin (3) def. David Nalbandian (4) 6-2 6-4 6-3
At the time, we said, "For the most part, it was the old Marat Safin, pounding away on just about every shot. And it was not the old David Nalbandian. He got to lots of balls, but he just made too many errors. Safin broke six times; Nalbandian managed a brief 3-1 lead in the second set but couldn't hold it. That's big for Safin in a number of ways. For starters, he finally wins another Masters title -- his first since Paris 2002, before all his injury problems. It goes far to back up his title at Beijing and redeem his horrid summer. And it implies that Safin might once again be in position to be the ATP's dominant indoor player. (Of his four Masters titles, three have come indoors: Two on carpet at Paris and now this.) Dominant or not, he'll be going to Houston after missing the Masters Cup in 2003; this win qualifies him for his third year-end Championships.... Now he just has to decide how much energy to expend in the coming weeks: He's planning to play St. Petersburg, and of course Paris is his favorite Masters. Does he really want to play all three weeks to end the season? David Nalbandian heard somewhere that he had to win both the next two events to qualify for the Masters. He heard wrong -- or, rather, he heard incomplete. Since Nalbandian is competing with Henman and Andre Agassi for the final spot (spots), he has to earn more points than they do to qualify, and since they're playing this week and next, the only way he can 'force' a qualification is by winning both events. But chances are that the other candidates won't win everything in sight, either, and who knows if Coria will play? Nalbandian isn't in a great position, but he is still competitive (certainly more so than Joachim Johansson or Tommy Robredo, who are now some 60 Race points back). If he can just stop making those errors, he might get somewhere." But, as mentioned already, he hurt himself trying to play everything in sight, and it ended up moot. Safin went on to win Paris and the Australian Open -- and then he got hurt.

Five Years Ago: We've been following the ATP schedule on a week-by-week basis, but we're going to have to skip a couple of weeks here to keep our Masters on track. Back then, the year was distinctly longer. So we skip Toulouse (won by Alex Corretja), Shanghai (won by Magnus Norman -- his last-ever title), Moscow (won, of course, by Yevgeny Kafelnikov), and Basel (won by Thomas Enqvist over Roger Federer, who was playing only his second final) to get to Stuttgart, won by Wayne Ferreira over Lleyton Hewitt. It was the second, and last, Masters for Ferreira, who had only one title after that; it was Hewitt's first Masters final (and he still hasn't won one indoors).

Ten Years Ago: This was a nice week for Ferreira, tool he beat Pete Sampras at Lyon. In the same week, Filip Dewulf won the first of his two career titles, beating Thomas Muster at Vienna, while Michael Chang beat Renzo Furlan at Beijing.

10-27-2005, 02:42 PM
October 25: St. Petersburg - First Round
Julien Benneteau def. Arnaud Clement 6-4 1-6 6-4
At the time, we said, "Arnaud Clement won't turn 27 until December, but at this rate, retirement may not be far off. Clement's Australian Open final in 2001 probably messed up most people's opinions of him; he's never finished a season in the Top 15, and never been ranked higher than #10. But he's been a Top 40 player for four straight years, and not too far below that the year before that. You expect to see him seeded at events like this, and contending when the surface is fast enough. Not this year. Clement is #90 in the Race, #102 in the rankings. He's won one Slam match in [2004], and no matches at the Masters Series. He had a semifinal at Marseille, and some quarterfinals, but overall, 2004 has been nothing but misery for him. And now he's out to another Frenchman, four years younger and with nothing like Clement's accomplishments. A passing-the-torch moment? The only minor good news is that Clement didn't play Paris last year, so this won't cost him more. Still, he's going to end 2004 ranked around #100, and will probably be stuck in Challengers at least part of the time next year. In that context, the good news is hardly worth the effort of noticing. For Benneteau, this is morally big. But, of course, it's only first round points at an optional event. A big optional event, but an optional event nonetheless." And, indeed, Benneteau has not gone anywhere in particular. Clement has recovered, somewhat; he'll end this year much better than last. But he's still far below his 2003 level.

October 26: Basel - First Round
Gaston Gaudio (3) def. Dick Norman (Q) 7-6(7-4) 6-4
At the time, we said, "Maybe Gaston Gaudio is going to finish the year in the Top Ten after all. This by itself doesn't change things much. Gaudio had enough fifth tournament points that this doesn't even affect his Race total, let alone his ranking. And it wouldn't be a very impressive win on a surface where Gaudio is comfortable; Dick Norman has been watching his ranking fall all year. And yet, Norman has a very big serve -- highly effective on carpet. And Gaudio hasn't been playing. He said he was hurting. A lot of people (we were among them) thought he was just dodging indoor events. This changes the picture. If Gaudio wanted to dodge fast courts, why would he come here rather than playing Madrid? The Spanish event at least was played on indoor hardcourt, whereas this is carpet. And Basel is, or was until Roger Federer pulled out, as strong as Madrid. So there was no reason for Gaudio to play unless he actually wanted to accomplish something. He came back, and despite his layoff, he was effective. At the very least, it says he isn't planning to go away for the rest of the year.... If the injuries keep up as they have been, he just might be able to move up to #8 or higher at year-end. And if he can be seeded in the Top Eight at the Australian Open -- well, Rebound Ace is slow. Melbourne is the one Slam other than Roland Garros where he might really do damage." Gaudio did in fact end the year at #10, though he didn't do anything at the Masters Cup or at the Australian Open. And he still doesn't seem to have solved fast courts; he's ranked almost as high this year as last, despite not repeating in Paris, but it's all clay.

October 27: Basel - First Round
Jerome Haehnel (Q) def. Fernando Gonzalez (8) 6-3 6-4
At the time, we said, "Word is that Jerome Haehnel is reconsidering. He doesn't like flying, but if he can get direct entry into the Australian Open, he will contemplate going. It's probably not just the thought of the air trip. It's also the courts. If he plays Melbourne qualifying, he'll have to play outdoors. But if he makes the main draw, he might play on one of the show courts -- and, just maybe, they'll close the roof. Given his indoor results lately, that might be significant. Haehnel, you will recall, won Metz two weeks ago, also as a qualifier. But Metz was a pretty pitiful event. Basel is a very strong event, and in his opening match, Haehnel took on a tougher opponent than he faced at any time in Metz. And he still managed another routine win. And, because he is still ranked below #100, these points count; no required and optional for him! And that means, it appears, that he will be hitting the Top 100 for the first time next week. He won't quite make it that high in the Race -- but he's getting close. At the rate he's going, they'll be calling him 'Mr. October' soon." Or, maybe, Mister My-Career-Lasted-One-Month. Whatever it was that he found in October 2004, he hasn't seen it since, and is back out of the Top 100. At least he doesn't have to worry about flying to Australia next year....

October 28: Basel - Second Round
David Nalbandian (4) def. Vincent Spadea 6-4 6-4
At the time, we said, "By the scoreline, it looks routine. But no match between these two incredibly stubborn guys is ever routine. And that goes double when the Masters Cup is on the line.... This is the event where Nalbandian won his last title, so it's probably good luck for him anyway. He can't qualify for the Masters Cup here -- but he can stake a claim. For the moment, he remains #10 in the Race. But he's now only 17 Race points behind countryman Gaston Gaudio, meaning that a final would move him up to #9 in the Race. And he's in the half of the draw vacated by Roger Federer. True, there are two other seeds left... but those two remaining seeds are Rainer Schuettler and Nicolas Massu. Theoretically, Nalbandian ought to be able to handle them. And if he does, he just might be able to make life interesting for Andre Agassi at Paris. Both are, of course, far enough back that they will probably need a withdrawal to get into Houston. But withdrawals still look like pretty good bets. For Vincent Spadea, this loss is a matter of near-indifference. He came in at #18 in the Race, but fully 95 of his 242 Race points were at optional events. Short of a final, nothing he did here was going to matter significantly. And he lost first round at Paris last year. His chances of finishing the year in the Top 20 remain good -- but for him, as for almost everyone else, it is Paris that will settle the matter." Spadea in fact ended the year at #19 -- but has slipped a bit this year. As for Nalbandian, he finds himself right about where he was last year. The breakthrough still hasn't quite come.

October 31: Basel - Final
Jiri Novak def. (4) David Nalbandian 5-7 6-3 6-4 1-6 6-2
At the time, we said, "This was precisely the last thing David Nalbandian needed. A win would have been great; it would help his Houston chances. A easy loss would have been bad, but with Andre Agassi also losing, it wouldn't really hurt him. If he had to lose, though, he wanted to lose fast. About the only part that was fast was the last game. Nalbandian, after going down 5-2, smashed a racquet. His second of the match. Which cost him a point penalty as he served to stay in it. And he quickly lost the next two points, and then the match; Novak had taken the last four games. To top it all off, Nalbandian needed medical attention in the third set (he said his left leg felt 'blocked,' whatever that means).... He does still have a chance to play Houston, though. By getting as far as he did, he made it to #9 in the Race... [and] three players ahead of him... are missing Paris... But losing the hard way sure didn't help. For Novak, this is his second title of the year, following Tokyo, and the seventh of his career. It's only the second time he's won two titles in a year (the first was 2001). And both of his titles this year are larger-than-minimum. More impressive is the fact that neither one has been on clay; until this year, he had four clay titles and one on Rebound Ace. This represents a dramatic improvement in the Czech's 'diversity.' It's not bad for his ranking, either. Novak came in at #29 in the Race. This appears to guarantee him a spot in the year-end Top 25. And, who knows, he might do some damage at Paris, too." Except that Novak lost second round at Paris, so he didn't quite make the Top 20, and now these points are coming off. But it was Nalbandian who really paid; that leg "blockage" ended his year.

Five Years Ago: Marat Safin, having won the U. S. Open, continued his quest for the #1 ranking by beating Dominik Hrbaty at St. Petersburg. On that same day, Arnaud Clement beat Patrick Rafter at Lyon; it was his first title, and remains his best; Rafter, amazingly, never won an indoor title, though he had good results on grass and hardcourt; this was his last indoor final.

Ten Years Ago: Thomas Muster polished off one of history's greatest clay years by actually winning an indoor title; he beat MaliVai Washington at Essen. The week's other event, Santiago, was much smaller, but it gave Slava Dosedel his first title; he beat none other than Marcelo Rios, who never did have much luck at home.

11-03-2005, 03:29 PM
November 1: Paris - First Round
Jurgen Melzer def. Juan Ignacio Chela 6-1 6-4
At the time, we said, "Juan Ignacio Chela is not a pure clay-courter. Last year, he made it to the fourth round of the U. S. Open, and in 2002 he reached the finals of Sydney and Long Island. This year, he made the quarterfinal of Indian Wells. But carpet -- oy. Chela lost first round at Paris in 2002. He lost first round in 2003. This year, he came in having lost first round at Basel. And now, once again, out first round in Paris. Routinely. And that will, very likely, cost him his year-end Top 25 ranking.... Best guess is that Chela will end the year at #26 or #27. It will still be his second-best year-end ranking, behind the #23 he achieved in 2002. And he won't have to go anywhere near carpet for another eleven months or so.... Jurgen Melzer will have his best-ever year-end ranking bar none, guaranteed. He finished last year at #79, and was #90 the year before that. This year, he came in at #42. This, for today at least, puts him in the Top 40.... [Win his next match and] his year-end Top 40 ranking will be certain." Given that Melzer is still only 24, you would have thought that that spelled good things for 2005. Not really. He finished last yeat at #39, but came to Paris this year at #48.

November 2: Paris - Second Round
Lleyton Hewitt (2) def. Gael Monfils (Q) 6-3 7-6(7-3)
At the time, we said, "The talk before this match was all about Gael Monfils -- the young Frenchman who came so close to the Junior Grand Slam, and who came into this contest with a 3-1 ATP record. But Monfils had never encountered anyone with the speed or steadiness of Lleyton Hewitt. This really doesn't say much about Monfils. It's like riding a bike the first time: While Monfils is likely to turn out quite well, he wasn't going to win the Tour de France the first time he took off the training wheels. What makes this match important is that Lleyton Hewitt has thrown down the gauntlet. He is here, as he was not last year, and is going to try to take the #2 ranking away from Andy Roddick. He hasn't done it yet. As of right now, Hewitt remains 29 points behind Roddick in the Race. He can't take the #2 spot unless he reaches the semifinal... Monfils came in at #284 in the rankings, #191 in the Race, with 8 Race points. Qualifying and reaching the second round more than doubles that. He will end this year at #160 or so in the Race, a bit lower in the rankings -- but still pretty good for a guy who has only two ATP events.... It will probably take Monfils a while to work his way out of Challengers -- not every event is in France, after all! -- but it really looks as if he will manage the transition." Hewitt didn't make it to #2 at this time, but he got there. As for Monfils, he didn't play many Challengers, relatively speaking; he got a lot of wildcards, and did a lot with them, and he's climbed more than 100 places in the year since. But he's hurt now, and will lose some ground. A week ago, it looked as if he would be seeded at the Australian Open. If he is, he'll have to earn it in one of the events next year.

November 3: Paris - Second Round
Jurgen Melzer def. Tommy Robredo (10) 6-3 3-6 6-1
At the time, we said, "It's a bit of an anticlimax, but at least we have finalized our list of Houston alternates. (Well, assuming that at least a few top men manage to play -- the way things are going, they may be pulling in alternates from outside the Top 20.) Tommy Robredo was the last player in action who was anywhere near the qualified players. Had his shoulder been in better shape, it might have been really interesting. As it is, he gave the crowd a good match, but it's over. And that means that our alternates for Houston are, in order, Andre Agassi (almost certainly will play, and despite his withdrawal from Paris, it seems likely that he will be able to play), David Nalbandian (who perhaps may not be able to play), Joachim Johansson (he presumably will be well enough to play by the time Houston starts, though he might be drained a little by his flu), and Robredo. Unless you assume that Guillermo Canas or Tommy Haas or Nicolas Massu can make the semifinal, anyway. Which, in this draw, is perhaps possible. Even if that happens, we know who will be the year-end Top Ten (unless Johansson or Robredo plays Houston, anyway): Robredo was the last player who could have overtaken Gaston Gaudio in the Race. So the Top Ten will be, in some order, Federer, Roddick, Hewitt, Moya, Coria, Safin, Henman, Agassi, Nalbandian, and Gaudio. Melzer came in at #42. This, it appears, moves him up to #38 -- obviously his best year to date. One more win and he will be probably #36. Except that that win has to come against Marat Safin." We covered Melzer above. As for Robredo, he seems to have settled in to permanent around-#20-hood. Certainly there will be no plane trip to Shanghai this year.

November 4: Paris - Third Round
Max Mirnyi (Q) def. Andy Roddick (1) 7-6(7-2) 6-2
At the time, we said, "Lucky for Andy Roddick the Masters Cup is played on hardcourt. Roddick started strong in the first set, and out-aced Mirnyi. But the Beast from Belarus managed to make it to a tiebreak, and on this fast surface, his attacking game beat Roddick's baseline strategy. The American went downhill fast in the second set; even his serve started to stutter as the match went along. Which suddenly makes the Race much, much more interesting. Roddick is still #2, but he's vulnerable. His lead over Lleyton Hewitt is a mere 33 Race points. That means that Hewitt needs only to reach the final to pass him. And though Hewitt is in the tougher half of the draw (it started out looking easier, but now Hewitt has to face Marat Safin) [if Hewitt wins one more match here, then]... whoever lasts longer at the Masters Cup will be #2.... Which in turn could translate into the #2 Australian Open seed. And while Hewitt has never done much in Melbourne, he has assuredly proved his Rebound Ace chops (titles at Adelaide 1998, 2000; Sydney 2000, 2001, 2004) Mirnyi, who had a horrible summer, came in at a mere #64 in the Race, but this goes far toward redeeming him; is closing in on #50 (though his entry ranking will probably be a few spots below his Race standing), and he's in the top half, where there are no seeds left." Hewitt of course went on to very good things in the first part of 2005 -- but Roddick at least managed to play Paris this year, and Hewitt didn't. As for Mirnyi, he's doing a bit better this year, though not nearly as well as a couple of years ago. And now this comes off.

November 7: Paris - Final
Marat Safin (6) def. Radek Stepanek (Q) 6-3 7-6(7-5) 6-3
At the time, we said, "Marat Safin was born in Russia. He spends a lot of time in Spain. But home, in a very real sense, is Paris. It's the place he can always count on. He has won the event three times (2000, 2002, 2004), and has one other final. This is his fourteenth career title, meaning that more than 20% of his career titles are here. It's a pretty amazing record, particularly for a Masters event.... To top it all off, he won both indoor Masters events. That has never happened since the Super Nines/Masters Series was inaugurated. Safin, even before the final weekend here, was complaining about the fact that the Masters Cup will be held outdoors, and he had some good logic on his side (players aren't prepared for outdoor hardcourts, though of course that's rather the point for the pro-Roddick-and-Agassi organizers). But Safin probably wouldn't be as upset if he didn't like playing indoors so much. It's been an odd year for him: A big start to 2004, a poor spring and summer, and a terrific autumn. The large majority of his points were earned at three events: Australian Open and the two indoor Masters. Unbalanced or not, he becomes the only player other than Roger Federer with two titles at required events this year. As a result, he's back up at #4 in both Race and Entry -- his first time in the Top Five since January 2003. And he isn't necessarily done climbing.... Safin also showed some real mental strength. That could be big next year. Stepanek still doesn't have a career title, but he has his first final, and he's rescued what was turning into a slightly disappointing year. He's up to #35 in the rankings, slightly lower in the Race. Those aren't final numbers, but obviously they're close. It seems nearly certain that he'll end the year at his best-ever ranking." Safin's mental toughness obviously was improving, as his Australian Open title showed -- but then there is the problem of his physical toughness.

Five Years Ago: Having won St. Petersburg the week before, Marat Safin won Paris (his third required event of the year) to finally and briefly take the #1 ranking. At that time, to be sure, Paris wasn't the end of the season apart from the Masters Cup; the next week, Thomas Johansson won Stockholm and Tim Henman won Brighton.

Ten Years Ago: In 1995, who would you expect to be contesting a carpet final? If you went for the obvious, you would be right: Pete Sampras beat Boris Becker at Paris. The week's other event, Montevideo, was won by Bohdan Ulihrach (his second title of the year); the next week, Thomas Enqvist won Stockholm and Carlos Moya Buenos Aires.