from Tennis Week by Richard Pagliaro
22 May 2004
The Mosquito’s baseline bite helped him soar to supremacy in Paris last year. But illness, injury and inadequate preparation have set a fly-trap that may well sap the sting from defending champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in his efforts to raise the Roland Garros title trophy again.
Roland Garros begins on Monday. The draws for the clay-court drama were released today and present challenging pictures for three of the primary contenders: top-seeded Roger Federer, third-seeded Guillermo Coria and Ferrero.
In the past, the tournament has served as a clay-court canvas for skilled clay-court players to produce a Parisian paradise with their signature strokes. Ferrero crafted his first Grand Slam championship on the red clay last year, but the man affectionately nicknamed “The Mosquito” must face a series of adversaries — wrist and rib injuries that have limited him to one light practice session this week — before he even gets to his experienced opening-round opponent, former No. 2 Tommy Haas. The fourth-seeded Ferrero is 2-0 against Haas, with both wins coming on clay, but the unseeded German claimed his first career clay-court championship in Houston last month beating defending Andy Roddick in the final.
The injuries are the latest setback for the former No. 1, who contracted the chicken pox at Indian Wells in March and sat out the entire month. Ferrero has been limited to just five ATP Tour clay-court matches this year and has not played since suffering a 6-2, 6-3 setback to compatriot Alex Corretja in the opening round of the Tennis Masters Series-Monte Carlo on April 19th. Should Ferrero survive his aches and pains and the hurt Haas can impose on opponents, he could face a potential fourth-round test from either Gaston Gaudio or Guillermo Canas.
… Ferrero’s quarter of the draw includes 26th-seeded compatriot Albert Costa, who crushed Ferrero in the 2002 final to take home the title, 19th-seeded Martin Verkerk, who fell to Ferrero in last year’s final and 12th-seeded Lleyton Hewitt, who has staged several dramatic duels with Ferrero in the past. The Hewitt-Ferrero rivalry has been as tight as an arm wrestling match between twins. Hewitt hold a 5-3 edge in the head-to-head series, but Ferrero has prevailed in both of their clay-court encounters.
Should the seedings hold true to form, Federer would face Ferrero in the top-half semifinal, but both must overcome challenging draws to reach the final four.
Among the opening-round matches that could electrify the City of Light include:
Agustin Calleri (Argentina) vs. No. 20 Marat Safin (Russia) — Calleri leads the head-to-head 2-0
No. 25 Ivan Ljubicic (Croatia) vs. Hicham Arazi (Morocco) — series tied 1-1
No. 8 David Nalbandian (Argentina) vs. Richard Gasquet (France) — Nalbandian leads 1-0
No. 4 Juan Carlos Ferrero (Spain) vs. Tommy Haas (Germany) — Ferrero leads 2-0
Guillermo Canas (Argentina) vs. Gaston Gaudio (Argentina) — series tied 3-3
No. 7 Rainer Schuettler (Germany) vs. Xavier Malisse (Belgium) — Schuettler leads 3-1