Wednesday, January 19, 2005
At the Australian Open today
By Cynthia Faulkner ESPN.com
Until Andy Roddick came along, Greg Rusedski held the record for the fastest serve in the ATP. Rusedski won their first meeting at Wimbledon in 2002, but since then it's been all Roddick.
"He took me apart pretty good in '02 at Wimbledon," Roddick said after the first round. "But that was a long time ago, and I've gotten him three times since then."
"I think the win at Wimbledon was definitely one of my best matches I've ever played at Wimbledon," said Rusedski, who says he's returned this year to the same level of fitness he had in 2002. "So that was very memorable. Then I played him the following year and lost my mind a little bit and, you know, had a memorable match there. So we've had two great matches at Wimbledon, at major championships."
They'll play their third match at a major tonight.
"It will be great to play him on a different surface at the Australian Open," Rusedski said after defeating Jonas Bjorkman 2-6, 6-4, 6-0, 7-6 (7). "I very much look forward to it. I think mentally I'm stronger now than I've been ever been. I think today's match kind of proved it with the tiebreaker and just coming back and just staying at one keel all the way through. I'll be looking forward to it.
"But he's tough. You know, like I said, it's a tricky match. And I'll definitely have to, you know, try to pick it up a little bit."
Rusedski is a lefty, but Roddick got a little match play with another one in the first round as he defeated Irakli Labadze. Roddick has reached the quarterfinals or better in his past seven majors. Rusedski respects Roddick and the skill he showed at Wimbledon 2004 against Roger Federer.
"I think out of all the Grand Slam finals, I think he had a chance there until the rain came and Roger changed his strategy. I think he played very, very well that year. And had the rain not come, who knows, it could have been different.
"I'm just going to have to make solid returns. I can't just bunt the ball back because he'll just run around and hit the big forehand and dictate play, so I'm going to have to take some risks."
Potential show stoppers
Venus Williams could face a tough match against Shuai Peng, who is something of an unknown quantity. Peng started the year with an upset of French Open champion Anastasia Myskina in the first round of Sydney. Peng reached the semifinals before losing to No. 13 Alicia Molik. After not advancing further than the quarterfinals at any major last year, Venus hopes to return to the form that saw her play final after final with her sister.
Top seed Lindsay Davenport and ninth seed Alicia Molik also are playing opponents they've never faced before. Davenport plays Michalea Pastikova of the Czech Republic, and Molik faces Aiko Nakamura of Japan.
No. 3 Lleyton Hewitt plays James Blake, who suffered numerous setbacks last year, falling victim to injury and illness, and personal loss as his father passed away from stomach cancer. Although Hewitt holds a 5-0 record against Blake, these two have a history that has dogged them since a controversial five-set match in the third round of the 2002 U.S. Open.
This time, Blake is just happy for the chance to play Hewitt after a successful first round against Florian Mayer 6-1, 6-2, 6-0. Hewitt has put on muscle in the past year and has his eyes on winning his home title.
Rafael Nadal seems healthy after pulling out of a match last week with what was reported as chest pains. Nadal said it wasn't an injury that he was having problems with his breathing. He had no worries in the first round, though.
"I feel good now," Nadal said after defeating Jerome Haehnel of France 6-2, 6-2, 7-5.
In the second round, Nadal plays Russian Mikhail Youzhny, who finished 2004 in the top 20 for the first time. Nadal defeated Youzney in straight sets two weeks ago in Doha.
Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero takes on another clay-courter in Mariano Zabaleta. Ferrero says he's back to being the same Juan Carlos who won the French Open in 2003. Ferrero also reached the finals of the U.S. Open that year. Zabaleta had a good run on the hard courts of the U.S. Open in 2001, but since then almost all of his success has been on clay. Ferrero is trying for back-to-back wins in tournament play for the first time since Wimbledon last year.
In doubles play, Americans Bob and Mike Bryan are seeded second as they begin play. And Martina Navratilova returns (no you weren't imagining her "retirement" tour last year), playing the last match of the day on Show Court 2.
Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor for ESPN.com.