I posted this on the other board, but for those of you here, here's a nice article.
Source: International Herald Tribute
Copyright © 2003 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com
Tennis: Ferrero tightens grip on No. 1
Christopher Clarey IHT
Monday, October 20, 2003
MADRID Within hours of each other, Justine Henin-Hardenne assumed the No. 1 ranking by winning in Zurich and Juan Carlos Ferrero consolidated the No. 1 ranking in the Spanish capital.
If the promoter Ion Tiriac had his way, they would have done it in the same city, but for now, if perhaps not for long, Madrid remains a buzz-generating tournament for gentlemen only instead of the mixed, 10-day tournament that Tiriac is actively seeking.
What happened Sunday this time around certainly did not hurt this two-year-old event. The field and matchups were strong; the crowds were big and boisterous and a Spaniard won. Ferrero might not be a local boy - he grew up and lives closer to the Mediterranean coast near Valencia - but he cheers for Real Madrid.
Last week, the world's most prominent soccer club returned the favor, as its players and administrators took turns occupying VIP space in the indoor arena known as the Rockodromo. On Sunday, Real fixtures Raúl González, Roberto Carlos, Ivan Helguera and Iker Casillas were on site as Ferrero jerked the much-more-unlikely finalist Nicolás Massú around the violet court en route to his 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory.
Other contemporary Spanish icons were on view during the tournament, too. The Beckhams deigned to make an appearance. Prime Minister José María Aznar, jacket and inhibitions removed, took part in the wave as Ferrero beat the Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in three terrific sets in Saturday's semifinals. Crown Prince Felipe and the film director Pedro Almodóvar were part of the public on Sunday, all of which is to say that tennis is trendy in Spain: thanks to its increasingly tenuous elite connotations; thanks, above all, to consistent Spanish success.
Starting from shaky ground, they have built a solid foundation in the last 20 years, and Ferrero has the potential to be the best and brightest brick. He is not the first Spanish man to reach No. 1. Carlos Moya held the top spot in 1999 for two weeks. But Ferrero could be the first to last. His victory here this week, which came only after he saved two match points against Wayne Ferreira in his opening round, made him No. 1 in both the rolling, 52-week ranking and the 2003 points race, giving him a four-point edge over Andy Roddick.
"To me, to be the leader of both rankings is a real source of pride," Ferrero said.
Henin-Hardenne has a slight edge on her countrywoman Kim Clijsters after beating Jelena Dokic by the score of 6-0, 6-4 in the final in Zurich. Henin-Hardenne is the 13th women to reach the virtual top since the computer rankings were launched in 1975, and she is the second Belgian to reach No. 1 in the last three months. Clijsters did it first, but Henin-Hardenne has had the more sensational season: winning the French Open and U.S. Open.
"It was a dream of mine as a child," she said on court Sunday.
She had best enjoy it while it lasts. She has pulled out of this week's event in Linz, Austria, understandably citing fatigue, and women's tour officials have indicated that Clijsters will reclaim No. 1 after that tournament ends.
"My next focus is not on keeping No. 1 but my first match at the Championships in L.A.," said Henin-Hardenne of next month's tour championships. "I want to be fresh and ready for that in two weeks time."
Clijsters, who won last year's tour championships, will have more points to defend in the final weeks of the season than Henin-Hardenne, and Clijsters still has no Grand Slam singles title.
Ferrero definitely has his. He won it in June at the French Open, and in September, he tore up his clay court-specialist label for good by reaching the final of the United States Open. Now, he has won his first indoor event and first Masters Series tournament on a surface other than clay and put himself in stronger position to finish the season at No. 1.
More impressive, he won in Madrid's relatively high altitude, which makes playing conditions even quicker than in an average indoor event.
"It's not nice to read in the newspaper that you're a clay court specialist," Ferrero said. "I don't like it, because I think I got rid of it years ago. But to win indoors is really important for my career."
It's not as if he gave no warning. The day he won at Roland Garros, he made it clear that he had not yet arrived at the summit he had in mind. Four months later, he is quite a bit closer, and quite a bit more at ease in the spotlight, as he proved after Sunday at the victory ceremony by, for a change, not treating the microphone as something to be handled for the shortest time possible.
Still, it looks as if his finest season is taking a toll: his right thigh was tightly wrapped Sunday and his angular features look increasingly drawn and his tinted blond hair increasingly rumpled. A pity that there is so much work left to be done: the ranking duel with Roddick and Federer that will finish at the Masters Cup next month in Houston; the Davis Cup final that will begin 12 days later on grass in Melbourne against a much better-rested Lleyton Hewitt and the Australians.
One can only imagine how fresh Ferrero is not going to feel in January after his too-short off-season. He has yet to rule out playing in the Australian Open, but it might be in his long-term interest to save himself. Ferrero wins with his whipping, take-the-ball-early groundstrokes and increasingly intimidating serve, but above all he wins with his legs.
The unseeded Massú, the last man admitted directly into the draw here, had the best tournament of his life: upsetting Roddick in the third round and then keeping his wits and pace in the rounds that followed. But for all his power and arriviste hunger, the Chilean could not keep up with Ferrero, dropping his serve early in each set and then failing to capitalize on his rare opportunities on the Spaniard's serve. His only break came when he was trailing 1-4 in the final set and his last opportunity to prolong his joy ride came when he led 15-40 with Ferrero serving at 4-3. But the Spaniard saved the first break point with a forehand winner; the second with a wide, bold second serve that Massú knocked long. Two aces later, Ferrero had proved that he is indeed a man for all surfaces. International Herald Tribune