March 22, 2000
Indian Wells, (California), March 21: A few months of concentrated training, after an illness which wrecked the entire last season, have thrust Spain’s Alex Corretja back into the ranks of the tennis elite.
The amiable Barcelona right-hander goes into this week’s start of the tennis Masters Series in Miami carrying the trophy from a similar tournament in California, where he lifted the 10th title of his career 6-4 6-4 6-3 over Thomas Enqvist.
He stands sixth in the chase for year-end world number one honours as well after his first title in 16 months since he won the 1998 ATP Tour World Championships.
For Corretja, one of the truly nice guys of the game, the Sunday victory in exactly two hours against the Swede was nectar — with his health and fitness back, anything now seems possible.
“The best thing about tennis is to find yourself happy on the court,” said the smiling 25-year-old. “I found that this week (as he beat seeds Enqvist, Swede Magnus Norman and Australian Patrick Rafter on the way to the trophy).”
Corretja was plagued last season by a mystery virus which sapped his strength and contributed to his three losses in finals during the year. After taking a late autumn golf holiday in sunny Malaga, Spain, with friends, the player re-dedicated himself to hard work starting in December.
“I changed my physical trainer, continued with my coach. We made a good plan to see if I can get back to the top,” said the former world number 3. “This win means a lot to me. The best for me is realising that I can be a good player again.”
His early 2000 results was mixed: A January semi-final in Sydney and a quarter-final in Scotsdale, balanced by a horrendous second round defeat to Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian Open.
Corretja, who grew up on clay in the tennis hotbed of Barcelona, has shown through his last two titles — his previous came on indoor carpet at the 1998 season final in Germany — that he has evolved into a true all-court threat. He will now be included among the favourites in Miami, second in the nine-event Masters Series which replace the former Super-9 series.
Corretja also credits the close-knit group of Spanish pros with providing each other with support out on the road. “Once you go out on the court, you are a professional. But once you finish, you can always be his friend again,” he said. The trophy-holder admitted that at his lowest 1999 ebb, he found it sometimes tough to keep going.
Davenport aims top spot
INDIAN WELLS: After five straight wins — all of them in finals — Lindsay Davenport may be finally staking a claim to superiority over world number 1 Martin Hingis.
The top pair in the women’s game head into Thursday’s start of the tennis Masters series event in Miami with Davenport fresh from a powerful comeback in the weekend final at Indian Wells.
The second seed’s 4-6 6-4 6-0 victory put her into a 11-7 command of the career series with the Swiss 19-year-old, who dominated the game for most of the past few years with clever shotmaking and superb tennis strategy in place of the raw power and brute force which figure in Davenport’s game.
But the big girl from California seems to be taking her toll on the Swiss miss. It’s been nearly 16 months since Hingis last beat Davenport. Her losses include three in 1999, this year’s Australian Open final and the Indian Wells matchup in the desert.
Davenport has nothing but praise for Hingis and remains loathe to verbally crown herself a champion while the Swiss still holds the top ranking spot. But unless Hingis starts reversing her losing trend, she’ll find the American sitting atop the WTA Tour tennis heap in a matter of weeks.
“We’re one and two and have been for two-and-a-half or three years,” said Davenport, who is the only major player with a winning record against Hingis. “Right now, I’m dominating it,” said Davenport, “but it might change again. We’re always meeting in finals, that’s the exciting part of the rivalry.”
Hingis made a rare admission in Australia that the was not particularly fond of facing the big-hitting Davenport, who stands 1.95 metres tall and belts the ball nearly as hard as a man. While the petite Swiss continues to believe in her own ability to handle almost anyone else in the game, playing Davenport requires something extra she has been unable to find in her game.
“Lindsay just keeps hitting those deep balls, you have to get them back and see what happens,” said the European. “Every time you play her you have to be 100 per cent.”
Hingis added that Davenport has lifted her mental side as well: “You would sometimes see that she could get frustrated. But she doesn’t give up now. She doesn’t make easy mistakes.”
Davenport, the reigning Wimbledon and Australian champion who also owns a US Open title from 1998, has similar praise for Hingis. “She’s obviously been the best player for the last few years, number one for most of the time. I never considered that I could be dominating her.”
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