Mark's career back on track
Philippoussis wipes Behrend
From correspondents in Scottsdale, Arizona
February 23, 2005
AUSTRALIAN Mark Philippoussis finally ended an eight-month losing streak by edging past German Tomas Behrend 7-5 1-6 6-4 in the opening round of the $481,000 Tennis Channel Cup today.
Philippoussis ... a winner, and it's still a whole month from April 1.
Pic: Associated Press
The former Wimbledon and US Open runner-up was playing his first tournament since suffering a groin injury at the Hopman Cup in early January that forced him out of the Australian Open.
After reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, Philippoussis had suffered an embarrassing string of first-round losses.
Behrend is ranked No.104 in the world, 97 places ahead of Philippoussis.
Wayne Arthurs also won his first-round match here today, edging past fourth-seeded American Taylor Dent 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4).
But the big Australian story was Philippoussis, who yesterday was overlooked for next month's Davis Cup tie against Austria in Sydney.
He had to sit through a frustrating 94-minute rain delay today after failing to convert a match point.
"Of course, it's a relief to win," said Philippoussis, who won this title in 1997 and lost in the final to countryman Lleyton Hewitt two years ago.
"Physically I feel fine, I've been working hard on court in Miami. I'm feeling strong. I've lost eight and a half pounds (3.8kg).
"I've been hitting the ball well in training, but it's tough to find the rhythm. Matches are so different. You get the same balls but you spray them, it's easy to lose confidence.
"I took an extra two or three weeks to make sure I was ready.
"I didn't want to rush like I've done in the past.
"I wasn't setting any tournament goal, I wanted to see how it was going. And a few days before this event, I felt ready."
Philippoussis's most recent victory was in the third round at Wimbledon last year against Chilean Fernando Gonzalez.
He bowed out at the All England Club to Tim Henman and his 2004 season quickly became a nightmare with five successive first-round losses and an early end to a frustrating campaign in Tokyo in October.
A long off-season and a determined start in the first week of January at the Hopman Cup mixed teams event in Perth only led to more misery.
Losing both of his group matches - to Slovak Dominik Hrbaty and Peter Wessels, Philippoussis managed to tear his groin muscle in two places against Dutch opponent Wessels.
Philippoussis struck a dozen aces in the victory over Behrend to set up a second-round clash with Croatian Mario Ancic.
Arthurs, 33, won a serve-and-volley struggle over Dent, his third victory in as many matches over the son of former Australian Davis Cup star Phil Dent.
"It was a close match," he said.
"I was lucky to get through, it's always tough against Taylor.
"The conditions were good today, not too hot, not too cold, not to windy.
"But the balls were flying."
Top-seeded German Tommy Haas withdrew from the tournament blaming influenza and a bad back.
With additional reporting from Agence France-Presse