S.V. Sriram

Schuettler did not make even one singles final in 2005

Chennai: Last year he was expected to pose a challenge to Carlos Moya and Paradorn Srichaphan. However, playing the first match of the tournament on centre court, Rainer Schuettler, returning after a knee surgery, went down in straight sets to Olivier Patience.

The sixth-seeded Schuettler, battling it out on one of the outside courts at the SDAT stadium on Tuesday, saw off Spaniard Fernando Vicente 6-4, 6-3, a bad bout of flu and a back injury in the second set notwithstanding. If anything, the injury spurred the German to finish the match quickly.

Content to remain at the baseline for much of the first set, Schuettler changed his gameplan in the second and started attacking. "Yes, I started to move in a lot more. The gameplan was to play shorter points and finish it off faster," Schuettler told The Hindu after the match.

"I pulled my back while going for a backhand. That hampered me. So I was cautious on my serve, tried to slice the ball and add a lot of spin. He (Vicente) just did not know what was happening," Schuettler said. "I'm feeling OK now. On Wednesday, I only have a doubles match. I will get some rest and hopefully carry on in this fashion."

Tough character

Schuettler, considered a tough nut to crack, put all his experience to play. He eschewed his characteristic counter-punching game, instead preferring to play percentage tennis mixed with quick runs to the net.

The year 2005 saw him finish in the top 100 for the seventh consecutive time. But it was tempered by the fact that he did not make even one singles final for the first time since 1998. A losing finalist to Andre Agassi at the Australian Open in 2003, Schuettler has promised a lot but not delivered.

"I definitely hope to do better this year and improve my ranking. I'm working on this aspect," said Schuettler. Maybe 2006 will have better results for him.

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