Fri, Nov 28, 2003 - Page 22 News List

Rusty rackets will clash in Australia

DAVIS CUP FINAL No one is willing to bank on a quick finish by either the Aussies or Spain. Hewitt will take on Ferrero and Moya plays hometown boy Mark Philippoussis

AP , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Mark Philippoussis returns to Lleyton Hewiit during Australia's last practice session in Melbourne before the Davis Cup Final. Australia will face Spain when starting today.

PHOTO: EPA

Lleyton Hewitt hasn't played in over two months, Carlos Moya hasn't been anywhere near grass in more than two years, and Juan Carlos Ferrero was 0-3 the last time he played.

With that covering three of the four players in the opening singles matches today at the Davis Cup final, no one is willing to bank on a quick finish by either Australia or Spain on a temporary grass court at Rod Laver Arena.

Hewitt will take on Ferrero and Moya plays hometown boy Mark Philippoussis in the opening singles matches in the fifth Davis Cup final between the teams. Spain beat Australia on clay at Barcelona three years ago in an often acrimonious final that saw Hewitt accuse Spain's Alex Corretja of trying to stir up the crowd.

Corretja and Hewitt are survivors of that 2000 match, but this time Corretja will be teamed with Davis Cup rookie Feliciano Lopez in doubles against the experienced team of Todd Woodbridge and Wayne Arthurs.

Philippoussis plays Ferrero and Moya takes on Hewitt in the reverse singles matches Sunday.

Hewitt's last match was a stirring Davis Cup semifinal win over Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in September at Rod Laver Arena. Down two sets and 5-3 in the third, he turned Australia's fortunes around and clinched the match against Switzerland.

Ferrero is keen to put his last outing behind him -- at the Tennis Masters Cup he lost to David Nalbandian and Federer in straight sets and Andre Agassi in three. The losses saw him drop to No. 3 in the world rankings.

Moya's last match on grass was at Wimbledon in 2001, when he lost to eventual champion Goran Ivanesevic in the second round. Moya, who claimed Thursday that he could not remember the last time he played on grass, withdrew from Wimbledon this year with a foot injury and last year with a shoulder injury.

"I'm not worried at all," Moya said about grass layoff. "I have been doing rather well in the last few days preparing and I don't think it will be a problem."

Hewitt said following yesterday's draw that his two-month layoff wasn't all his doing.

"I had a foot problem and I had to get that sorted out," said Hewitt. "I had to look at whether it was worthwhile flying all that way just to play in one tournament on a totally different surface and I thought no."

"It's been a long eight weeks for me, but the show is due to start."

Ferrero said his Masters Cup performance was something he'd rather forget -- "that was two weeks ago, this is another tournament, another time."

Hewitt and Ferrero have met six times, never on grass, with each having won three times. They last met in the quarterfinals of the US Open where Hewitt, affected by a hip injury, lost in four sets.

Philippoussis leads 4-2 in head-to-head matches against Moya -- the Australian won the first four meetings between them on hardcourts but Moya has won the past two on clay in the past two French Open tournaments.

The biggest odds go with the established doubles team of Woodbridge and Arthurs in Saturday's match against 22-year-old rookie Lopez and Corretja. Lopez is making his debut in Davis Cup and Woodbridge and Arthurs have played together five times, including a win over Switzerland in the semifinals.

Corretja said he will try to take on a calming role for Lopez in the match.

"My duty is to make things right, make sure that he is feeling at ease, focussed ... relaxed," said Corretja.

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