Tennis / Grand Slam Cup: Ivanisevic is too fast for Forget: Croatia's flag-waving ambassador takes his season's ace count nearer the thousand mark

Click to follow
The Independent Online
LAMENTING the passing of the artist, Ion Tiriac is convinced that Ilie Nastase, his old doubles partner, 'would not have been born' in the modern game. As the manager of the lucrative Goran Ivanisevic, Tiriac none the less regards his client with a tinge of regret: 'Goran has a lot of ability and passion, but he doesn't have the possibility to develop because he's in a shoot-to-kill game.'

Ivanisevic, in fact, shoots to kill more than most, as he demonstrated again at the dollars 6m (pounds 3.7m) Compaq Grand Slam Cup here yesterday. In defeating Guy Forget, of France, 7-5, 6-4, the Croatian hit 17 aces and 11 service winners in 11 service games.

This brings his tournament total for the year to an unprecedented 974 in 73 matches - with a possible 13 sets remaining for him to reach the magical 1,000 if he advances to Sunday's final.

Forget hit 10 aces before departing the Olympiahalle with the consolation of dollars 100,000 as a first-round loser, leaving Ivanisevic, who is guaranteed dollars 300,000 as a quarter-finalist in the 16-man event, to complain that the court is too fast to enjoy playing. Maybe, but Richard Krajicek, another big server, had a smile on his face after dispatching Emilio Sanchez, of Spain, 6-3, 6-2.

The court here is a slightly worn 'Supreme Carpet', similar to the one on which Ivanisevic hit 105 aces in five matches in Tiriac's Stuttgart event in February; similar, also, to the ones at the Britain's National Championships, played at the Telford Racquet Centre, which promoted the Davis Cup player, Mark Petchey, to say that the event might as well be played on the local ice rink.

Ivanisevic's power game is beginning to make most surfaces seem that way to his opponents, though Andre Agassi did offer hope for the counter-puncher by defeating him in the Wimbledon final in July.

December was glorious for the French last year, when Forget and Henri Leconte completed their unexpected triumph in the Davis Cup, defeating the United States in the final in Lyons. Leconte has had his problems of late, damaging Achilles tendons during the Paris Open last month, though, as he found yesterday, physical difficulties sometimes can be overcome quicker than psychological ones.

Leconte, who defeated the South African, Wayne Ferreira, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0, swept through the concluding 10 games, wondering, in common with the spectators, if his opponent had already returned to Johannesburg. Ferreira, the winner of the Stella Artois championship at Queen's Club in June, wished he had.

'I was more nervous than I have been for a lot of matches,' he said. 'I don't know if it was the money or if it was just the fact that I haven't been playing well, but it was pretty bad for me today. I felt a bit down that I lost my serve, and then mentally I was not there for the rest of the match.'

This has become a recurring problem: 'Since the United States Open, I have had really bad matches. I think that is what probably started it off today. The way I have been playing got me into a bad state of doing the same thing all the time and, when I start losing, kind of giving up a little.'

Ferreira, 21, has too much talent to become a bok with no spring. 'I think it is just that I have had a long year and have played a lot of matches and have got really tired and haven't prepared,' he said. 'I am going to go back home, have Christmas, and then try to prepare as well as I can for Australia. I am definitely going to try to play a lot less next year.' He is also considering moving his base to Europe or the United States, 'somewhere where I don't have to travel as much, where I can be closer to the tournaments'.

Leconte, assisted by the pace of the court, was delighted to be able to display his impressive repertoire and be handsomely rewarded. 'I won a tennis match today. That is a good thing,' he said. 'And I won some money. That is another good thing.' To win more he must defeat either Pete Sampras or Alexander Volkov in the quarter-finals.

Wally Masur did not experience feelings similar to Ferreira's, even though he came closer to winning, at 6-2, 5-3 against Petr Korda. What surprised the Australian was the transformation which enabled Korda to recover and defeat him, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. 'I thought he was pretty ordinary, and then, at 5-3, there was something about him that just lifted and he won that game to love,' Masur said. 'His body language and his attitude changed.'

Korda's outlook changed first of all when he glanced round the arena and did not see the Czechoslovakian flag. 'I am a little bit disappointed,' he said. 'I am the only one in the tournament from my country and everybody has a flag except me.' The oversight will be rectified today, though in future Korda could follow the example of Ivanisevic, who wears his national colours as a bandana.

The United States flag stands proudly in honour of the nation's four representatives, including John McEnroe, whose entrance this afternoon is awaited with keen anticipation.

GRAND SLAM CUP (Munich): First round: H Leconte (Fr) bt W Ferreira (SA) 3-6 6-3 6-0; P Korda (Cz) bt W Masur (Aus) 2-6 7-5 6-4; G Ivanisevic (Croa) bt G Forget (Fr) 7-5 6-4; R Krajicek (Neth) bt E Sanchez (Sp) 6-3 6-2.

Today: S Edberg (Swe) v M Stich (Ger); P Sampras (US) v A Volkov (Rus); J McEnroe (US) v N Kulti (Swe); M Chang (US) v A Agassi (US).

(Photograph omitted)