Ivanisevic turns the tables on Medvedev

TENNIS

Perhaps the Roman sunshine in place of Hamburg's clouds induced Goran Ivanisevic's remarkable transformation. Four days after being jeered off the court for winning only six games in three sets against Andrei Medvedev in the final of the German Open, the Croat reversed the result to advance to the quarter-finals of the Italian Open yesterday, 6-1, 7-6.

More likely, it was yet another example of the perverse nature of Ivanisevic's game. When his mind is able to synchronise with the pace of his shots for more than five minutes at a time, few players are more difficult to beat.

The spectators may have feared the worst, or at least those who had witnessed Ivanisevic's collapse against Jim Courier in the final here two years ago (6-1, 6-2, 6-2). Having said that, the first-round defeats of Pete Sampras, Courier, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Alberto Berasategui and Marc Rosset must have prepared the crowd for anything.

Medvedev is another highly-gifted player who gives the impression of being governed by mood, and he was the one whose resolve seemed to waver here. After creating an opportunity to push the match into a third set by breaking Ivanisevic in the ninth game of the second, he won only one point in the 10th, when the Croat's service return was blessed with a lucky clip of the net cord on the concluding shot.

Ivanisevic approached the tie-break with greater confidence, remembering, perhaps, that he had won a shoot-out to win his first final against Medvedev at the Paris indoor event in 1993. He won this one 7-3 to secure victory after 71 minutes.

"If somebody beats you badly, you want to prove they can't really play better [than you]," Ivanisevic said, acknowledging that in the Hamburg final he had been "mentally out of it''.

He was physically out of the game for two months earlier this year due to cartilage trouble in his right knee, which had nagged him since he injured it playing football after returning to Croatia following last year's Italian Open.

By coincidence, Sergi Bruguera's left knee gave way at roughly the same time as Ivanisevic's right during the Eurocard Open in Stuttgart in February, and both players returned to action in Barcelona last month.

They are on course for a semi-final meeting tomorrow. Bruguera must first defeat Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman, who recovered from a set and 2-4 down to beat Fabrice Santoro, Sampras's conqueror, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1. Ivanisevic plays Jeff Tarango, who defeated his American compatriot MaliVai Washington, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Bruguera seemed in danger of going out yesterday, a lethargic start against Richard Fromberg encouraging the Australian to go for his shots and dominate the opening set, 6-1.

After an exchange of breaks at the start of the second set, the French Open champion capitalised on Fromberg's errors and raised his performance to take nine consecutive games from 2-2 in winning, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Stefan Edberg ended a stimulating week for Corrado Borroni, defeating the Italian qualifier, ranked No 411 in the world, 6-0, 6-2. The Swede now plays South Africa's Wayne Ferreira.

Britain starts building on clay, page 38

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