Tennis: Ivanisevic and Kafelnikov not suited to change of scenery

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The Independent Online
Good players might not become bad players overnight, but strange form fluctuations do seem to take place when they are sleeping, or at least trying to sleep, while in transit from one tournament to another. There are times when last week's winners become this week's no-hopers.

The $1m (pounds 666,000) Dubai Duty Free Open has suffered more than its share of weary examples in recent days. Goran Ivanisevic, who frustrated Britain's Greg Rusedski in Sunday's final of the Croatian Open, was added to the list of first-round losers here yesterday, beaten, 6-3, 6-3, by Carlos Moya, of Spain. Shortly afterwards, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, a finalist in Marseilles, was dispatched, 6-2, 6-1, by the Moroccan Hicham Arazi.

Ivanisevic, the eighth seed, and Kafelnikov, No 3, offered similar excuses - the sudden shift from an indoor carpet court to outdoor concrete with insufficient time to adjust. Marcelo Rios, the Chilean No 2 seed, who was beaten in straight sets on Tuesday by New Zealand's Brett Steven, did not play last week. The reason why the Australian Open finalist arrived on Monday night was that he forgot his passport and missed his original flight.

One might wonder if their journeys were really necessary, except that Dubai is one of the ATP Tour events allowed to offer appearance money.

Ivanisevic's next trip might have been back home to make a guest appearance on the left wing for Hajduk Split in the last 10 minutes of their match against Croatia Zagreb, but the game has been switched from Sunday to Wednesday. "The Hajduk coach asked me if I was ready," Ivanisevic said, "but I had to tell him that I have a pretty busy schedule. I hope they can win without me.''

Asked if playing football was a bit risky, he said, "Everything is risky. My father was telling me always, `Don't play basketball, don't play football, don't play this'. And last year I walked out of my apartment, trapped my hand in the door, broke my finger in three place and was out of tennis for six weeks. And in Australia I was boxing for fun and my eyebrow was cut by an elbow. Everything is dangerous. A walk is dangerous to me.''

Kafelnikov also seems accident prone. The Russian missed the last two Australian Opens, in 1997 after damaging a hand in a gym by punching a heavy bag without protective gloves, and this year after injuring a knee while skiing at Christmas.

We trust that they stay away from the gym and off the piste before the Guardian Direct Cup in Battersea Park at the end of the month.

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