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17th October
written by kat

17 October 2004
Reigning champion Juan Carlos Ferrero is hoping to put a disappointing season behind him by retaining his crown at the Madrid Tennis Masters. Ferrero won last year’s final by defeating Chile’s Nicolas Massu in straight sets – a result that took him to number one in the ATP world rankings. The last 12 months have not been kind to the Spaniard and a combination of injuries, illness and loss of form have seen him drop to 13th in the list.
However, he will be hoping that the Madrid crowd can help him as they did last year and that he can take advantage of a slightly weaker line-up in the Madrid Masters to recapture former glory.
“I am feeling good, both at a physical level and also in terms of my tennis. I remember that last year I came here with slight problems in my heels and things worked out,” Ferrero said.
“The main opponents are going to be the same as always and it doesn’t matter that this time I am seeded lower. If you want to win, you always have to beat the best,” he said.
The indoor hard court does not especially favour Ferrero’s game, which like so many Spaniards is best suited to slower beaten clay.
The altitude in Madrid is also thought to be a factor favouring the bigger servers, such as Britain’s Tim Henman.
Henman will have unhappy memories of his two previous appearances in Madrid, both of which have seen him crash out in the first round, but he travels to Spain this time around finding himself top seed thanks to the withdrawal of several big names.
Carlos Moya, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Guillermo Coria all gave notice they would not be playing earlier this week and they were joined on Friday by world number one Roger Federer.
“[Federer] rang me at the last moment, he told me that he didn’t feel either physically or mentally prepared after the past few months of playing and so much travelling,” said tournament director Manolo Santana.
Federer would have been hot favourite to lift the title, but his absence, more than any of the others, throws the Madrid Masters wide open.
There are still some big names: Andre Agassi will hope to repeat his triumph of two years ago, when he beat an injured Jiri Novak by a walkover.
Marat Safin will always be a threat if he can hold his game together for a week, while David Nalbandian, Olympic champion Massu and even Paradorn Srichaphan will be wondering if this could be their week.
The crowd factor means the Spanish contingent cannot be ruled out either with Feliciano Lopez, Tommy Robredo, and Rafael Nadal all likely to put in a challenge and to receive the sometimes over-enthusiastic backing of the Madrid public.
Meanwhile, this year not all eyes will be on the players.
Organisers had the idea of employing female models aged between 19 and 27 years old to act as ball collectors on centre court for the evening sessions.

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