Fittingly, all but one of the world's top 20 men are here (the American Todd Martin is resting an injured stomach muscle for the Davis Cup tie against Britain at Easter) with the No 1 ranking up for grabs again, and five former women's champions are competing.
Many changes have taken place here over the years, not least the fact that Britain now has players good enough to enjoy the luxury of sitting out the opening round of the men's event waiting for opponents. Greg Rusedski, who slipped out of the top 10 after narrowly losing to Tim Henman in the third round at Indian Wells last week, ought to be primed to make a speedy move up from No 13 with few points to defend in the months ahead, and Henman is only one place from breaking into the top five. Henman's second round opponent is Cecil Mamit, from Los Angeles, who yesterday defeated his American compatriot Paul Goldstein 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. Rusedski plays the Romanian Adrian Voinea, who was too strong for David Caldwell, a qualifier from Virginia, winning 6-0, 6-3.
Mamit, ranked No 86, gained minor prominence last month by reaching his first ATP Tour final at the Sybase Open in San Jose, California. En route he defeated Kenneth Carlsen, watched Andre Agassi swear himself to disqualification and had wins against Mark Woodforde and Michael Chang. Mark Philippoussis was too strong for Mamit in the final. Then again, the Australian denied Carlos Moya the Indian Wells title last week after the Spaniard had supplanted Pete Sampras as the world No 1.
Yesterday it seemed that Mamit would find Goldstein too good for him, particularly after double-faulting three times in a row to go 0-3 down in the opening set. Goldstein, it may be remembered, is the college boy who eliminated Rusedski in the second round of the Australian Open.
Mamit might lack height (5ft 8in), but the 22-year-old of Filipino extraction is a game competitor. Although he was unable to convert either of two break points for 4-4 in the opening set, he outplayed Goldstein in the second set and recovered a break of serve to win the final set.
Henman has actually defeated Mamit on slow clay courts in satellite events in Florida, albeit before the Briton began his climb up the rankings. "From what I remember, Tim is the type of player who puts a lot of pressure on you, especially on your second serve," the American said. "He's a crafty player and he obviously has a lot more experience than me."
Mamit said his progress in the San Jose event had given him a lot of confidence. "It's good to look back on that tournament, and how I came through against the good players, and gave them a good match. When I saw the draw here I really wanted to play against someone of Tim's stature."
Not surprisingly, given his own stature, Mamit models himself on Chang. "But I try to be aggressive as well," he said. One of his ambition is is to play in the main draw at Wimbledon. "I played in the qualifying event in 1997, and lost in the first round," he said.
Voinea, ranked No 77, has the look of a right-handed Rusedski, partly because he is tall and lean, but also because he sports a headband. He has never played Rusedski before and will do well to counter the British No 2's serve.Reuse content