Sun, Jan 11, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Ljubicic surprises Henman in Qatar

PROFESSIONAL TENNIS Ivan Ljubicic will now meet French wild card Nicolas Escude, who eased past eighth-seeded Agustin Calleri of Argentina 6-2, 6-3

AP , DOHA, QATAR, ADELAIDE, PERTH, AND GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA AND WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

Defending champion Eleni Daniilidou of Greece celebrates with the winners' trophy after beating Ashley Harkleroad of the US in the singles final, defending her ASB Classic title in Auckland, yesterday. Daniilidou won the match 6-3, 6-2.

PHOTO: AFP

Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia eliminated two-time finalist Tim Henman of Britain 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-6 (5) on Friday in the Qatar Open and reached his second career ATP final.

In today's final, Ljubicic will meet French wild card Nicolas Escude, who eased past eighth-seeded Agustin Calleri of Argentina 6-2, 6-3.

Ljubicic fired 11 aces against seventh-seeded Henman, and overcame two rain delays in 2 hours, 39 minutes of exhilarating tennis to play in his first final since winning the title in Lyon, France in 2001.

"I am probably playing my best tennis," Ljubicic said. "It is a beautiful feeling to have qualified for my second ATP final and that too after a great match with Tim.

"It was a close match and any one of us could have won it. I feel my match against Tim has prepared me well for the final tomorrow. I hope I can carry on the good work."

Henman had been a Doha finalist in 1997 and 1999, and had won nine consecutive matches on tour.

It will be Escude's sixth career final, and he'll be aiming for a fourth title.

The Czech pair of Martin Damm and Cyril Suk retained the doubles title 6-2, 6-4 over Andy Roddick of the US and Stefan Koubek of Austria.

Damm and Suk, seeded third, won US$54,000, while Roddick and Koubek, a first-time pair and unseeded, became richer by US$31,000.

AAPT Championships

French qualifier Michael Llodra upset fifth-seeded Taylor Dent of the US 6-3, 7-5 Saturday to advance to the final of the AAPT Australian men's hardcourt championships.

Llodra will play another unseeded player, Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty, in Sunday's final. Hrbaty earlier beat sixth-seeded Jarrko Nieminen of Finland 6-4, 6-2.

Neither finalist has dropped a set at the tournament.

After a series of close line calls in the second match, a frustrated Dent accused umpire Fergus Murphy of ``costing me the match'' after he dropped serve to give Llodra a 6-5 lead. Dent refused to shake hands with Murphy after the match.

Llodra's previous success on the ATP circuit has been limited to doubles. He and countryman Fabrice Santoro were ranked No. 5 in last year's ATP doubles race.

"It is hard to play against Dent," Llodra said. "He puts a lot of pressure on you and you have to be very confident. My returns and my passing shots were very good."

"When I arrived here I just wanted to play as many games as I could. I did not know I would be in the final. Tomorrow will be a big day for me ... I have nothing to lose."

Hrbaty and Llodra have met once before, in St. Petersburg in 2001. Llodra won that first-round match in straight sets.

Hopman Cup

The US, featuring James Blake and Lindsay Davenport, won the Hopman Cup team tennis championship for the second year in a row Saturday with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Slovakia in the deciding mixed doubles.

Lindsay Davenport put the US on track for back-to-back titles with a 6-3, 6-1 singles win over Daniela Hantuchova. Slovakia's Karol Kucera came from 3-0 down in the deciding set to beat James Blake 4-6, 6-4 7-6 (5), leveling the final at 1-1.

Blake, who teamed with Serena Williams to win the tournament last year, and Davenport dominated in mixed doubles before a capacity crowd of 8,500 at the indoor Burswood Dome to give the Americans a 2-1 edge in the final.

Former Australian Open champion Davenport hit 12 aces and beat Hantuchova in 51 minutes. It was Blake's first singles loss in the tournament this year.

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