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Hi everyone from Madrid.

It's good to be back blogging for the first time since Chennai in the first week of last year.

First off, I don't have an interesting picture today so here's one of me last week in Vienna at a falconry at the Kreuzenstein Castle. I love animals so I really enjoyed seeing the falcons - they are so big they are scary.

After losing in the Vienna quarterfinals I got a flight the same day to Madrid. But when I got here I started to feel really sick and I basically spent the first night throwing up and I wasn't able to practice Saturday. I had a sandwich in the Vienna airport and that may have been the problem, but my coach ate the same thing and he's been fine. Usually it's better if it's the other way around!

The strange thing is that one year ago I picked up a virus on the eve of Madrid. I had a high fever the day before the match but I decided to play, which proved to be a big mistake. I wasn't well for the next 4-5 weeks and I was lucky to be able to make it to Masters Cup.

I tried to practice twice yesterday but there was no way. I woke this morning and have been feeling better so I had a light practice with Mikhail Youzhny. He had just arrived from Moscow so he was looking to take it pretty easy also. We hit for about an hour and then had a talk. He was telling me that after the US Open he and his girlfriend went to Croatia for a holiday. I thought that was great.

While Croatia is a beautiful country it's not one of the most popular holiday destinations for players or tourists. He went to a very popular island, Brac, which is a terrific place. I told him that the next time he goes he should call him and I'll tell him about all the other great places he should visit.

This week is obviously very important for all the players in contention for Tennis Masters Cup. One reason I'm hoping to make it is to see how I look as a terracotta warrior. In Montreal a lot of players in contention had their measurements taken. The woman doing the measurements said that my head had a very interesting shape and that she would like to do it for me. I guess you have to take that as a compliment :) Being bald, I have nothing to hide.

I experienced the excitement in 2005 when I qualified for the Masters Cup in my semifinal match in Bercy (Masters Series Paris). I was fighting for every match and it will be the same for everyone this year with so many guys grouped so close together all the way down to me in 14th place. And with byes for the seeds in Madrid it will be really hot from the beginning because there's 15 points for the seeds if they can win their first match. But the cut here is 44, so there are no weak players or easy matches. So it's going to be very exciting for the players and the fans.

Check back Monday for another post.

Regards, Ivan
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