Thu, Feb 22, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Mauresmo heeds Dubai distress call

AFP , DUBAI AND ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS AND MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

Tommy Haas returns Vincent Spadea's serve during their Regions Morgan Keegan Championships match at The Racquet Club in Memphis, Tennessee, on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AP

Amelie Mauresmo flew in at short notice, straight from winning a diamond-encrusted racket in Antwerp, to help save the reputation of a damaged tournament with her celebrity profile and some surprisingly forthright words.

The Wimbledon champion from France answered a rescue call at such short notice after the withdrawals of Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams that it will be tough for her to win back-to-back tournaments.

But it was also tough for Mauresmo to comment frankly on the situation which has been inflicted upon the US$1.5 million Dubai Open -- which is loaded with potential controversy -- and she made a fair stab at that.

"I think most players, 80 percent of players are honest about when they can and can't play," Mauresmo said, when asked what was the solution to problem of so many leading players pulling out.

"It's just because of 20 or 10 percent of players you are going to penalize all the others. That's not so fair. So, tricky," Mauresmo added.

Ljubicic dominates

Croatia's indoor ace Ivan Ljubicic reasserted his dominance after a first-round loss a week ago, hammering ahead at the Rotterdam Open with a 7-5, 6-3 defeat of Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker on Tuesday.

The eighth-ranked Croatian, winner of three indoor titles under the roof in the past 16 months, held his own against the hard-hitting junior Wimbledon winner. De Bakker, 18, was unable to impose upon the experienced Ljubicic, who won his seventh career ATP title in Doha in January over Andy Murray.

The 27-year-old lost in the Marseille first round last week after playing the Zagreb final indoors three weeks ago.

Ljubicic earned the first set in 42 minutes with a break of the number 433, then broke for 5-3 in the second before closing out the victory.

Fourth-seeded Tomas Berdych fell victim to recovered Russian Mikhail Youzhny, with the Czech crashing out 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1.

Berdych, playing in only his third ATP tournament of the season, took to the court for the first time since his nation was beaten 4-1 in the Davis Cup by the US in Ostrava.

But the hardcourt at the Ahoy arena provided little solace, with Youzhny riding the confidence of reaching the quarter-finals or better in three of four ATP tournaments this season.

Belgian Kristof Vliegen handed Jarkko Nieminen a 6-1, 6-4 disappointment as the Finn, a semi-finalist last week in Marseille, slumped badly.

Meanwhile, the event suffered another blow as 2004 winner Lleyton Hewitt pulled out as a strained hamstring from last week failed to heal in time for his opening match.

Haas defeats Spadea

Second seed Tommy Haas launched his title defense by defeating American Vince Spadea 6-4, 6-1 in Memphis on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old German improved to 9-2 on the year and booked a second-round date with Amer Delic, who won an all-American matchup with Pual Goldstein 7-5, 7-6 (7/0).

Israeli teen top seed Shahar Peer ousted Finland's Emma Laine 6-4, 6-3 on the women's side while seventh seed Venus Williams eliminated qualifier Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-4, 6-4.

Williams had been idle for four months due to a wrist injury and has played as many matches to reach the third round as she had since last July.

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