Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Saturday, June 30, 2001

Front Page | National | Southern States | Other States | International | Opinion | Business | Sport | Miscellaneous | Features | Classifieds | Employment | Index | Home

Sport | Previous | Next

Ivanisevic teaches Roddick a lesson

By Nirmal Shekar

LONDON, JUNE 29. This is where he has lost his soul. This is where, too, he has found his soul. This where he has had his most frustrating failures. This is where he has had his most rewarding successes, too. The smell of the fresh-cut English grass has inspired him to turn himself into a superman. And memories of the very same lawns have haunted him forever and ever.

Nothing about Goran Ivanisevic is ever what it seems. And, nothing, too, seems the same at different points in time. He is everything he is reputed to be and a lot of things he's never been suspected of being. Infuriatingly brilliant one moment, sickeningly pedestrian the next.

By his own admission, the Croatian left-hander in the twilight of his roller-coaster career is two and not one, at once a demi-God and a devil, a winner and a loser, a courageous fighter and a coward.

And, for one bright shining moment in the 2001 Wimbledon championships on Friday on the No. 1 court - not far from the most famous tennis court in the world where he has lost three finals - as he stripped to his waist in ecstasy and raised his arms like a triumphant heavyweight boxer, there was no contradiction in the Ivanisevic persona.

Performing in a sort of sagely trance, Ivanisevic drove away all the demons and became what be could seldom be in the prime of his career - an uncomplicated champion tennis player - as the old master taught his gifted young pupil, Andy Roddick, an object lesson in grass court tennis.

Ivanisevic's 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 victory in an hour and 54 minutes in the third round over the 18-year old American prodigy widely tipped to be a future world No. 1, was a master-class in grass court tennis and it might have done a lot to stretch a career that almost seemed to be at its end last season.

``I don't know what to say. Just perfect,'' said Ivanisevic. ``If I can serve like I did in the first two sets, just great. He was just walking left, right...''

The three-time Wimbledon finalist will take on Greg Rusedski of Britain in the fourth round. Unseeded Rusedski upset the Spanish clay court specialist and eighth seed, Juan Carlos Ferrero, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

Except for a brief spell soon after the second set when he seemed to let up a bit, Ivanisevic was on fire for the most part of the match in which he sent down 41 aces and had 28 service winners, making it a total of 69 points when his serve was not returned.

From the back of the court too, the old master won quite a few points while at the net his touch was exquisite as he played a few dink volleys that left Roddick marooned.

The match did not begin until shortly before 2 p.m. because of rain. And once it did, Ivanisevic was very much on song. His cannonball serves brooked no reply from the young American who fought very well to stave off a breakpoint in the sixth game.

But, in the tie-break, Ivanisevic pounced on the chance that the inexperienced youngster offered him with poor shot selection on a crucial point - Roddick played a drop that Ivanisevic ran down with a forehand pass - and never looked back, serving out the set with a second serve ace.

In the second, too, the Croatian left hander, playing here as a wild card during a year in which he has lost in the first round five times, controlled the points for the most part. Roddick fended off two breakpoints in the opening game but double faulted to 0-40 in the 11th and then lost serve on a volleying error. Just over an hour had gone by the time Ivanisevic was up two sets.

But, the 29-year old Croatian who has won over $ 18 million in prize money in a remarkable career but has failed to get past the first round of a Slam since the Australian Open 2000 as he has battled a shoulder injury, took his foot off the pedal in the third.

In the event, Roddick, running on younger and fitter legs, stormed his way back into the contest, hitting some superb returns to break Ivanisevic's serve in the sixth game of the third set...which, it turned out, was enough for him to narrow the gap in the match itself.

The point is, as well as he is serving even now, Ivanisevic is a touch heavier and little slower to the net. In a long match, this could be a handicap. And it was just as well that the Croatian dug deep enough to close it out in four sets.

The break came in the eighth game as a few good Ivanisevic returns put some doubts into the young man's mind and Roddick promptly double faulted.

Serving for the match, Ivanisevic let go of two matchpoints, fought off a breakpoint with an ace and then closed it out with two more aces.

On Thursday, the championships witnessed a late evening thriller on a show court for a second day in succession. After the unexpected fireworks on Court No. 1 on Wednesday when Barry Cowan earned his 15 minutes of fame against Pete Sampras, what was enacted on the Centre Court last night was very much on the cards.

Lleyton Hewitt versus Taylor Dent was an intriguing match-up with wonderful possibilities. And it certainly lived up to its billing as the fifth seeded counterpuncher from Adelaide survived all the bombs thrown at him by his big serving opponent to come out without his pride dented in any way, a winner in five absorbing sets.

Hewitt's 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-3 defeat of Dent must have been a huge morale booster. For, as successful as he has been on grass this year - unbeaten in 14 matches now - the mercurial Australian has always seemed vulnerable against the big men with the big game on the big stage.

``A lot of people start to think that if you have a big serve you are just about home,'' said Hewitt. ``I draw confidence from guys like Michael Chang and Andre Agassi. I go out there and I know my rush return of serve is one of my main strengths. I look forward to playing these matches because it's sort of their strength against mine.''

Surely, on this day, Hewitt's strengths proved superior...but only just. And the brash young man was lucky that he got the break he did early because of rain. For, Dent was threatening to blast him off the court at that point, having won the first set 6-1. The break came at 1-1 in the second.

``If anything lost me the match it was the rain delay,''said Dent, son of the former Australian Davis Cupper Phil Dent but born and brought up in the United States. ``Maybe I relaxed a little bit. My thought process changed.''

As well as this, it was obvious that Dent needed a bit of tutoring when it came to the big points. He made too many mistakes on simple overheads and volleys, not to speak of approach shots at crucial moments in the match. And against a player who gives nothing away, this proved costly.

Dent has got all it takes to do very well at Wimbledon. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the tactical maturity to use his gifts to the greatest advantage. He tends to throw too much away, offering too many cheap points to the opponent.

Hewitt, for his part, turned a lot more aggressive returning serve once he came back from the break. And he seemed set to wrap up the match in four sets before sending down two double faults to lose serve when serving for the match in the 12th game of the fourth.

Then a pumped up Dent played a superb tiebreak, hitting successive serves of 143mph and 144mph, the second the fastest recorded in Wimbledon history and the second fastest of all time. The record is held by Greg Rusedski who fired one at 149mph at Indian Wells in 1998.

To shake off the effects of such an assault and to come out on top early in the fifth set was indeed a very creditable effort from Hewitt.

``The way I bounced back, it's as good as I've ever done,'' said the young man who won two grass courts titles last fortnight after his first ever success on the centre court. Surely, it won't be his last.

The results (prefix denotes seeding):

Women's singles (second round): 31- Tamarine Tanasugarn (Tha) bt Ludmilla Cervanova (Slo) 6-2, 2-6, 6-1; 21-Barbara Schett (Aut) bt Nathalie Dechy (Fra) 7-6 (7-5), 6-3; 9-Nathalie Tauziat (Fra) bt Petra Mandula (Hun) 6-0, 6-1; 30-Patty Schnyder (Sui) bt Jana Kandarr (Ger) 6-2, 6-2; 6-Amelie Mauresmo (Fra) bt Eleni Daniilidou (Gre) 6-3, 6-2; 27-Angeles Montolio (Esp) bt Anca Barna (Ger) 6-3, 6-4; 2-Venus Williams (U.S.) bt Daniela Hantuchova (Svk) 6-3, 6-2

14-Jelena Dokic (Yug) bt Jennifer Hopkins (U.S.) 6-2, 6-4; Nadia Petrova (Rus) bt Sylvia Plischke (Aut) 6-1, 6-0; 7-Kim Clijsters (Bel) bt Maureen Drake (Can) 6-3, 6-1; Iroda Tulyaganova (Uzb) bt Adriana Serra-Zanetti (Ita) 6-3, 6-7 (6-8), 6-2; 11-Amanda Coetzer (RSA) bt Emilie Loit (Fra) 6-2, 6-3; 17- Meghann Shaugnessy (U.S.) bt Marta Marrero (Esp) 6-0, 7-5; 29- Elena Likhovtseva (Rus) bt Cristina Valero (Esp) 6-1, 6-1.

Men's singles (third round): Goran Ivanisevic (Cro) bt Andy Roddick (U.S.) 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, 3-6, 6-3; Greg Rusedski (GBR) bt Juan Carlos Ferrero (Esp) 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

Men's singles (second round): 5-Lleyton Hewitt (Aus) bt Taylor Dent (U.S.) 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-3; Mikhail Youzhny (Russia) bt Anthony Dupuis (Fra) 7-6 (9-7), 6-3, 6-2; 20-Fabrice Santoro (Fra) bt Max Mirnyi (Blr) 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, 6-4; Younes El Aynaoui (Mar) bt Andreas Vincinguerra (Arg) 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4); 27-Hicham Arazi (Mar) bt Olivier Rochus (Bel) 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7- 3), 7-6 (7-3); Guillermo Canas (Arg) bt Kenneth Carlsen (Den) 7- 5, 4-6, 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.

Wayne Black (Zim) bt Felix Mantilla (Esp) 6-1, 6-2, 7- 6 (7-5); 9-Sebastien Grosjean (Fra) bt Rainer Schuttler (Ger) 7- 5, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6).

Send this article to Friends by E-Mail

Section  : Sport
Previous : The Proletarian justifies confidence
Next     : Paes-Bhupathi duo crashes out

Front Page | National | Southern States | Other States | International | Opinion | Business | Sport | Miscellaneous | Features | Classifieds | Employment | Index | Home

Copyrights © 2001 The Hindu

Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu