Nicolas Kiefer’s reverse number

Special Correspondent

Mumbai: Nicolas Kiefer told a short story about the sports P-Cap pressed firmly on his head that was more prominent than the stubble covering his face.

Occupying a seat in front of a portrait of Col. C.K. Nayudu, partially hidden by the Kingfisher Mumbai Open 2007 banner at the Banquet Hall, Cricket Club of India (CCI), the 30-year-old German said that No. 69 in bold print on his black cap is not his favourite, but the reverse number of the football club ‘Hannover 96’, the non-Bundesliga Club he has been supporting for many years. “For merchandising reasons, I cannot use the No. 96,” he explained as a matter of fact in his first press conference.

Thanks to a wildcard given to him by friend Mahesh Bhupathi of Globosport, Kiefer, ranked 131 on the ATP list and placed 21 in the Kingfisher men’s singles draw, has not faced 11 players above him either in a Grand Slam or tour event, including the top seed, Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

But the No. 2 seed Australian Lleyton Hewitt holds a 3-0 advantage against Kiefer. France’s Fabrice Santoro beat him six times before losing to him in the ATP Masters 2006 at Miami and at Wimbledon this year, a reflection of skills post-wrist injury phase. Kiefer has beaten and lost to Paul-Henri Mathieu once, has a 1-2 record against Belgian Olivier Rochus, and lost once to Chilean Paul Capdeville. He has victories over the rest seeded above him. It’s 3-4 against Rainer Schuettler placed two places below him.

Kiefer said he’s in India for two reasons. One for the wild card and second to see a new country. “I have been on the tour for 12 years, I wanted to see India, do a bit of sightseeing here in Mumbai. Hence I took the card. All I can do now is pray for the rains to stop for tennis to start.”

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