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P E R S O N A L I T Y : L L E Y T O N H E W I T TC
The big The big The big shoot-outThe big The big
ARGENTINA VERSUS SPAIN
As soon as the world circuit comes back round to the clay courts, the battle at the top narrows down to just two countries, Argentina and Spain, and possibly Roger
Federer and Marat Safi n (on one of his good days). You dont need a degree in tennis to understand this, just the patience to study the clay court tournament scoreboards. Ro-land Garros 2004 was the last straw: three
semi-fi nalists out of four were Argentinean, as were both of the fi nalists, with (surprisin-gly) Tim Henman the odd man out. There was an unexpected dearth of Spaniards, though to be fair Nadal was out through injury and Moya only lost after an incredible match with Coria. Will it be the same story this year? Will eve-ryone have to bow down before the Argenti-neans? Theyre not likely to repeat such ove-rwhelming predominance, partly because
the Spanish have some new arrows in their quiver. Of all talent born in magical 1986 they picked the joker, the baby phenomenon ca-pable of scaring King Federer, even on Ame-rican cement in Miami. Rafael Nadal is the player any nation would want: good looking, fearless and above all extremely strong. In his sleeveless top and Pinocchio shorts, he started the season on clay as an outsider and after the fi rst few tournaments is already being hailed as one of the favourites.
Back on clay again, the battle at the top is immediately Argentina versus Spain, with Roger Federer the only obvious alternative. Last year the South Americans dominated the fi eld. This year revenge is in the air.
102 of the top 104 world players have registered for Roland Garros, with German Popp and Russian Tursunov missing the roll call Lleyton Hewitt is helping build an orphanage in Cambodia New sites for a number of ATP players To fi nd out everything about Marat Safi n just click on www.maratsafi n.com, or for Filippo Volandri www.fi lippovolandri.it
The big challengeGaston Gaudio Carlos Moya
But Spain isnt just Nadalito. Up to a couple of years ago the king on clay was Juan Car-los Ferrero, a minor champion who spent more time last season with his physiothe-rapist than anyone else. Its hard to imagine him back at the top but seeing him down below the 50 mark in the INDESIT ATP 2005 Ranking for so long was an insult to his ta-lent. Drawing him in the early rounds in Paris or in the ATP Masters Series tournaments wont be fun for anyone, yet when youve got 16 players in the worlds top 100 its easy to come up with someone new every season. 2005 seems to be David Ferrers year; a highly physical talent, he plays like hes swallowed a box of Duracells. Perpe-tual motion in person, he plays back any ball hes given and can keep running for half the day vitality in tennis shorts, he gives 100% on every point in every match, in every tour-nament. True hes not a no. 1, but having a supporting cast of his calibre is a luxury.Fans will wonder if this commentator has memory problems. Er, hang on, what about Mr. Carlos Moya?. Potentially, he would seem the perfect clay court ma-chine, with his powerful serve, absolutely lethal forehand, solid backhand and a top of the class touch. But his best days seem behind him, especially as hes one of tho-se players who can never be satisfi ed with
Wilson Racquet Sports have decided to sponsor the Jensen Brothers Tour, a series of clinics that tour the United States taking the game to young people 1986 promises to become a magical year, with Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet all being born in it Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya skipped the Bahrain Grand Prix due to an injury he got while... playing tennis
SurprisesPeople are expecting Guillermo Coria to manage at last to win at Roland Gar-ros or that Gaston Gaudio will give us an encore. Looking to Spain, the money seems to be on the freshness of Rafael Nadal, the experience of Carlos Moya or the re-birth of Juan Carlos Ferrero. And theres no lack of outsiders. First of all, the reborn Argentinean Mariano Puerta, who after a long absence made a thundering come-back by winning the Casablanca tournament and reaching the fi nal in Buenos Aires. His backhand is still a joy to see and its going to be great ha-ving him back on the major courts. In the Spanish camp, David Ferrer may not be the most talented player in the circuit but even a top player, on an off day, will be risking it against the consistency and so-lidity of this fi nalist at Valencia, who has already shown himself a good all-rounder by reaching the semi-fi nal on cement in the ATP Masters Series in Miami.
winning less than a Roland Garros. If I had to put money on it, Id say were more likely to see Nadal holding up the Three Muske-teers Cup than our bel Carlitos.The Spanish are ready to do battle but the Argentineans are still the real favourites. The Paris 2004 fi nalists - Gaston Gaudio and Guillermo Coria - have been joined by the ever reliable Canas, a Nalbandian who, when not injured, is a pain for anyone and even the old Mariano Puerta, a player who used to be as competitive in the restaurant as he was on court. Slimmer now and in fair-ly decent form, hes technically peerless but is handicapped by being only 175 cm tall.There arent many alternatives, to be honest maybe only one, King Federer. Though its true the Swiss ace looks mortal again on clay, but could win even in human mode. Hell be the favourite in any given match but the problem is what might happen if the blin-dfolded goddess turns the other way when the draw is made. Roger can beat Coria and he can also beat Nadal, Moya and any other clay specialist. But what if he gets all of them, one after the other? If you have to go to fi ve sets with Nadal, how do you show up on court the day after against another long distance racquet wielder? The only year that Pete Sampras looked like winning in Paris he had to play 4 long matches in a row. Federer
has more miles in his legs, but will he have them in his head as well? Rome and Paris will pronounce the solemn verdict.
Rankings by nation
1 Argentina 26
2 Spain 31
3 USA 40
4 Russia 46
5 Sweden 69
6 Czech Rep. 87
7 Croatia 97
8 Germany 100
9 France 127
10 Belgium 135
*Sum of fi rst three players in the INDESIT ATP 2005 Entry Ranking
Battle cry Cmmmooooonnnn. Screa-med after every important pointMission... possible Of course Im convinced Im going to beat Federer. The only problem is that its not going to be simple. Everyone knows that Rogers the man to beat at the moment.Will to win To pep myself up I always think of the face my opponent would make if he beat me.Never surrender It never even oc-curred to me to withdraw against Nadal in the Melbourne tournament. Even if Id broken my leg, I would have stayed on court fi ghting.Ready, steady, go! We all started out as equals, we new generation players. We were 6 or 7 and after a few hundred matches here we all are again, together, fi ghting for the big titles. Its pretty surpri-sing if you think about it.A question of centimetres Tennis is a game where a mere centimetre can make the difference. I won a match again-st Agassi thanks to a lob that he missed by a hairsbreadth. Obviously a cool head is needed at times; the mental factor is more important than anything else.Earnings Its obviously fantastic to earn loads of money doing what you love, but Id play even if we didnt earn so much. I dont earn much in the Davis Cup but when I plan my year, its the fi rst thing I think of.Best qualities Mentally I think Im one of the strongest players on the circuit. And I believe Im one of the fastest too. You know? Passing shots, lobs, recove-ries.... Well, if Im at the top of the world rankings, I owe it to these qualities.Ex-fi ance In ending my relationship
Cash was on court, we were all more con-vinced and concentrated. The same thing happens when Lleyton Hewitts in the team. Wally MasurForce of mind I dont know any player who wouldnt be happy to have just a bit of Lleyton Hewitts force of mind. Todd WoodbridgeWinning attitude He plays every point as if it were the second world war. Roy EmersonGreat praise How can you not love Lleyton Hewitt? Hes incredible for all of us who arent 1 metre 90 giants, he offers everyone the hope of playing this sport at the highest levels. You can see he adores tennis and that he fi ghts over every ball. God, I adore him. Billie Jean KingOne of us Hes a great fi ghter, with a consistent game. Even when hes in diffi culty, he always tries to be aggressi-ve. Hes ready to start winning the major tournaments again. Hes earned his pla-ce amongst the greats of this sport. An-dre AgassiGreat refusal Hewitt? He simply refu-ses to lose. John Newcombe
with Kim Clijsters I think I behaved in a very mature way and managed the situa-tion perfectly, both on and off court. In-laws and adversaries He already made a few comments to me in the locker room. He wont be getting me a Christmas present. He reckons today was mine. After beating Joachim Johansson in the semi-fi nal of the US Open (Johans-sons girlfriend is Hewitts sister). On transfer I never think anyone can be stronger than me. I believe in myself and in the past its got me out of lots of complicated situations and this has made me a stronger person. Like playing in a Davis match on transfer: in those condi-tions I think Im very competitive. Its a quality youre born with and that you can improve on, step by step. I have th