Ivanisevic storms the desert

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PARTS of Britain have thirsted for the rain which has poured on the desert these past two days, much to the consternation of the organisers of the $1m (pounds 660,000) Dubai Open.

The unlikely conditions came too late to offer respite to Thomas Muster before the Austrian's unsuccessful debut as the world No 1 on Wednesday, following a prolonged Davis Cup tie in South Africa. Indeed, the majority of seeds perished in the sunshine during the first four days.

When the rain eventually subsided yesterday, the fourth-seeded Goran Ivanisevic swept into the final by winning two matches in two hours, with a 90-minute break in between.

Today, against the unseeded Carlos Costa, of Spain, ranked No 23, Ivanisevic hopes to win only the second hard court title of his career.

Ivanisevic did everybody a favour, with the exception of Wayne Ferreira, by sprinting into the semi-finals with a 6-2 6-1 win against the defending champion in only 42 minutes. That helped the tournament to make up ground, and Ivanisevic followed up by defeating David Prinosil 6-2 7-6 shading the German in the tie-break, 8-6.

In the quarter-finals, Prinosil, No 50 in the world, continued a week of surprises by eliminating the No 2 seed, Thomas Enqvist, 6-2 6-3, adding to impressive victories against Stefan Edberg (unseeded nowadays), and Andrei Medvedev, the No 7 seed.

Costa outlasted his compatriot, Javier Sanchez, in the semi-finals, 3-6 6-3 6-1. In the previous round, Sanchez won in three sets against Australia's Sandon Stolle, the "lucky loser" from the qualifying who toppled Muster in the first round.

Ivanisevic has a new coach, Vedran Martic, an unsung Croatian, being the latest to accept the challenge. Ivanisevic practically grew up with 28-year-old Martic at Tennis Club Split, and evidently values his company as much as his coaching ability.

"I don't need a coach to give me so many psychological things before a match and after a match," Ivanisevic said. "I think I have been long enough on the tour to know how to play. I don't want to talk tennis four hours a day. It's better to watch movies than talk tennis all the time.''

Ivanisevic consulted his former mentor, Bob Brett, the meticulous Australian who guided him to two Wimbledon finals in their four and a half years together, before offering Martic a one-year contract in January

Two months after parting with Brett last October, Ivanisevic helped himself to $1.625m as the winner of the Compaq Grand Slam Cup, but still felt the need of someone to monitor his game, if not his mind.

"I learned a lot with Bob," Ivanisevic said, "but it is easier for me to speak to someone in Croatian, because I don't know some words when I try to explain in English. To be honest, maybe I don't need a coach. If I'm confident, I don't need anybody. But it's sometimes good, because I don't see what I'm doing wrong, and if I need to do something with my game we can take 50 balls and go on a tennis court.''

Martic, a promising junior, has worked with the Moroccan, Younes El Aynaoui, Anke Huber, and Medvedev's sister, Natalia. "It's pretty lonely to be on the tour all year," Ivanisevic said. "Vedran knows me like my father, on the court and off the court, when I'm crazy, when I'm not crazy." He would appear to have the credentials.