Waske snaps Nadal's winning streak

GERRY WEBER OPEN: The 147th-ranked Alexander Waske taught the young winner of the French Open what it takes to play on Wimbledon's grass courts


Fri, Jun 10, 2005 - Page 22

Three days after winning the French Open, Rafael Nadal learned the hard way what he needs to do to succeed at Wimbledon.

German wild card Alexander Waske upset the 19-year-old Spaniard 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the first round of the Gerry Weber Open -- a key warmup for Wimbledon -- to snap Nadal's 24-match winning streak.

All those wins came on clay, and on Wednesday his serve wasn't powerful enough on the faster surface of grass.

"I belong to those people who want to learn when things don't go well," Nadal said. "I will go to Wimbledon five days early and work on my serve."

Nadal complained of fatigue, plus a mild thigh strain and blistered finger.

"I'm tired -- I need two or three days off," said Nadal. "My fitness is not the best. When I go to the net I am too slow. My fitness is a big part of my game."

The match turned in the 147th-ranked Waske's favor when the third-seeded Nadal netted two drop shots to fall behind 6-5 in the second set, losing his serve for the first time.

"I played a horrible game," Nadal said. "I started well, but it is hard to concentrate after so many matches at the French."

Cheered on by 9,000 spectators, Waske -- known as a doubles specialist -- received a standing ovation when he volleyed into the open court to close out the two-hour match.

Nadal, who had trouble with the trajectory of his strokes and over-relied on topspin, still expects to do well at Wimbledon.

"My confidence didn't just come from the French. I won five titles before that -- I've played good all year," he said.

He has played just one previous tournament on grass as a pro -- reaching the third round of Wimbledon two years ago. Last year, his grass-court season was wiped out by an ankle injury.

Australian Open champion Marat Safin saved a match point before advancing when Fabrice Santoro retired with a left thigh injury in the third set. The second-seeded Russian led 3-6, 7-6 (7), 3-2.

Safin, who had lost seven of his previous eight matches against Santoro, erased the match point with Santoro up 6-5 in the second-set tiebreaker.

Safin won only his second match on grass in three years while fighting a knee injury that has bothered him for two months.

Also, Olivier Rochus defeated eighth-seeded Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (2), 6-3.

Defending champion Andy Roddick easily beat Australia's Mark Philippoussis 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday in the second round of the Queen's grass-court tournament.

Philippoussis opened with three straight aces, but the second-seeded American responded with 10 aces, including one that was clocked at 243kph. Roddick holds the world record for fastest serve at 249kph.

"I wasn't super-comfortable with the draw," Roddick said. "But I felt I played about as well as I could have asked for in the first match."

Roddick, who won the Wimbledon warmup in 2003 and last year, took a 3-2 lead after breaking the 1997 champion at love. A strong return then forced a backhand error to give Roddick a second break.

In a match of short rallies, Philippoussis failed to gain a point on Roddick's serve in the second set as the American once more forced a backhand error with a big return to get the only break at 3-3.

"I felt like I lifted my percentages a lot in the second set and was putting a lot of first serves in," Roddick said. "That put the onus on him to try to figure something out."

Also, Mario Ancic, the last player to defeat Roger Federer on grass in the opening round of Wimbledon in 2002, earned a comfortable 6-4, 6-4 win over Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic.

The young Croatian next plays 18-year-old Richard Gasquet of France, who ousted Britain's Jamie Delgado 6-4, 6-1.

Big-serving Max Mirnyi of Belarus set up a third round clash with former champion and top-seeded Lleyton Hewitt. Mirnyi topped Italy's Davide Sanguinetti 6-4, 6-3.

American wild card James Blake also advanced, overcoming Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-2, 6-4 to earn a meeting with Sebastien Grosjean of France.