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Old 01-19-2004, 05:51 PM   #1
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Default Chris Guccione

Within the space of three games on Margaret Court Arena yesterday morning, it was clear Chris Guccione has several things that Alun Jones does not.

To name a few: size - 198.5 centimetres, to be precise - a serve of commensurate power, and heavy shots off both sides of his body. Yesterday, he also had a Melbourne crowd in his corner, which for Canberran Jones detracted somewhat from the feeling of playing in your "home" championships.

It might have been unkind to the contest's loser to suggest, if Jones had not virtually done so himself, that Guccione also has a future of grander proportions.

"With a weapon like that, you're going to go a long way," Jones said after being brushed aside 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 by the Greenvale 18-year-old, whose star rose dramatically last week when he defeated world No. 3 Juan Carlos Ferrero in Sydney. "He can beat guys who are top 10, then the next day he could go out and lose to someone like myself. That's the type of game he has."

For Jones, whose own game is artful but lacks artillery, such distinctions in make-up are a constant frustration. The 23-year-old hit his share of winners - 34 to Guccione's 38 - but they tended to leave his racquet with a heavily top-spun "ting", whereas his opponent's made a resounding thud.

Jones began nervously and was broken early in each set, but after clawing back and feeling "like it was changing for me", he rued a loose tie-breaker in which his struggles on serve were most conspicuous. "I think I was concentrating so much on his serve that I forgot how to hold my own."

Guccione has an endearingly casual air. Asked who he had modelled his service on, he said "myself", adding he "just went out there and hit serves". He said it was only in the past two years that it had become a weapon.

A first grand slam has already made his heart race. It has been an adventure for the whole camp; Richard Fromberg spent the warm-up yesterday trying to find the coaches' seats, while Guccione's own preparations included scratching around for tickets for family and friends. He procured "like, 10 or 15", but met only a fraction of demand.

They saw their boy record what he thought an even bigger win than that over Ferrero. "This week is a grand slam, best-of-five match; you've got to win three sets. There's a lot more points involved so it will take my ranking a lot higher. It wasn't really easy - I still had to play my best tennis."

He knows what must be done to take it into elite territory. While there were sizzling passing shots from back and forehand, and Jones noted an improvement in the Guccione volley, he still suffers from a characteristic occasionally found in world leaders, the misuse of power.

"I can hit the ball big but they don't always go in," was his summary. Movement around the court is another hobby horse for his mentors. "I have everyone telling me, 'Move your feet, move your feet', 24 hours a day."

Tomorrow, he meets Robby Ginepri, when the superiority Guccione enjoyed yesterday will be turned on him in at least one department: unlike the American, he cannot boast having dated actor Minnie Driver. But he has registered with Ginepri, who knows two things about his opponent - he is Australian, and he has a big serve.
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