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News from the Estoril Open; "Ivanisevic Ready for Title Challenge"
04-13-2004, 10:37 PM
Post: #1
News from the Estoril Open; "Ivanisevic Ready for Title Challenge"
Ivanisevic Ready for Title Challenge



First round action at the Estoril Open continues on Tuesday with top seed Rainer Schuettler and No. 8 seed Marat Safin both taking to center court, as well as the mouthwatering clash between former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic and Rafael Nadal.

Ivanisevic makes his first appearance on a clay court for nearly three years when he takes on rising Spanish sensation Nadal. Ivanisevic, the former World No. 2 who has been plagued with injuries in recent years, last played an ATP clay court match in the qualifying competition of the ATP Masters Series event in Rome in 2001.

"I'm hitting the ball very well," said Ivanisevic. "I had a good practice at home on clay, but it's going to be very interesting against a guy who's tough and who's going to be one of the best players in the future. We will see. If I can play against him on clay then I'm okay. I hope that I can have a high percentage of first serves - that's what I need at the moment. Serve less hard but put more serves in."

The 32-year-old Croat has a 597-327 record career record and is hoping to reach a special milestone. "I am only three matches short of winning 600 matches," said Ivanisevic. "So this is also my goal, to try to win another three matches. I haven't played for almost three years, so there's not many players in the 600 club, so I'm trying to win three more matches somehow."

Pain

Ivanisevic and the 17-year-old Nadal played in the second round of the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami last month, when Ivanisevic had to retire after losing the first set 6-4 due to pain in his shoulder. "I pray that I don't have too much pain in my shoulder and that I can play a normal match," he said.

"My last clay court tournament was 2001 Rome qualies, so it's a long time. I just hope I can get through the match. I know that I can't play without pain, so I just have to go through like this. In Miami, it was hurting more, so I had to stop. Hopefully here it will hurt less, but it's always going to hurt."

Nadal, who like Ivanisevic is playing in Estoril for the first time, reached his first career final in Auckland earlier this year and made his Davis Cup debut for Spain in the first round victory over the Czech Republic. He is 14-8 so far this year.

Meanwhile. Safin is making his third appearance in Estoril and first since reaching the quarterfinals in 2002. The Russian, who reached the final at the Australian Open earlier this year, is 8-6 in 2004 and currently stands in fifth position in the INDESIT ATP 2004 Race.

Luck

"I just want to get off to a good start," said Safin. "I want to get some confidence, get used to the courts and then we will see. Once I win a couple of matches and I can play really good tennis, I can be very dangerous. I really need some confidence, I haven't won many matches recently but then I haven't had much luck with the draws. This time, I have to take advantage of the draw, which is very good for me."

Safin meets Cyril Saulnier in the first round having won their only previous meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2002. Safin also has won 13 of his last 15 matches against French opponents.

Top seeded Schuettler, who has lost both of his previous matches in Estoril, will be hoping to kick-start his 2004 season having gone 4-7 so far. Two of those wins came last weekend, when he helped Germany defeat Israel in the Davis Cup Euro/Africa Zone Group I. The German takes on Romania's Victor Hanescu in the first round.


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