Tennis: Ivanisevic makes an early exit: US Open loses first seed while Sanchez Vicario makes winning start

Click to follow
The Independent Online
GORAN IVANISEVIC, the player who has everything to complement a big serve except an even temperament, was defeated in the first round of the United States Open yesterday by Markus Zoecke, a giant German reputed to possess a booming serve and nothing else.

Zoecke, it may be remembered, was dismantled in four sets by Britain's Jeremy Bates in the third round on the Centre Court at Wimbledon while Ivanisevic was pounding his way towards a final against Pete Sampras.

Though the second-seeded Ivanisevic had lost his opening match in his previous two tournaments and arrived at Flushing Meadow after nursing a hip injury, few people expected his challenge for Sampras's title to be terminated so early and so easily. 'Maybe I have a brain injury,' he said ruefully.

While Zoecke was unable to match the Croat for aces - 21 against 16 - the world No 68 capitalised on his opponent's 60 unforced errors, including 10 double faults. The 26-year-old Berliner won 6-2, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, after two hours and 21 minutes.

Ivanisevic, who found the net with alarming regularity in the first two sets, improved his range in the third set and seemed about to probe Zoecke's game for weaknesses. On this occasion, the German had grown so accustomed to hitting winners that he was not inclined to break the habit.

He created his first match point at 5-4, with Ivanisevic serving. The Croat saved it with a forehand drive, but then cracked at 15-40 in the 12th game. This time his forehand clipped the net cord, and Zoecke passed him on the backhand for the biggest victory of his career.

In contrast, a fretful Bates double-faulted on match point to lose in five sets to Maurice Ruah, of Venezuela, ranked No 121. Bates, ranked No 73, recovered from 0-3 to 4-4 in the final set, but then contributed to Ruah's first win in a Grand Slam, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Afterwards, the British No 1 accused a spectating friend of Ruah's father of coaching.

Ivanisevic's elimination opened the lower half of the draw, the upper half already having lost a seed without a ball being struck. Petr Korda withdrew from the tournament because of a groin injury.

'I had the problem in the French Open and in Wimbledon, but I could play,' Korda, the 16th seed, said, 'but right now it is the worst pain I have had. It is better for my health to step out of the draw right now.'

The Czech, who has had little success since those epic contests against Sampras and Michael Stich which enabled him to win the Grand Slam Cup in Munich at the end of last year, had been due to meet Cedric Pioline in the first round. The unseeded Frenchman, who lost to Sampras in last year's final, now plays Oliver Gross, of Germany, a lucky loser from the qualifying event.

Rain delayed play for two hours, after which Arantxa Sanchez Vicario began her challenge for Steffi Graf's title with a 7-5, 6-1 win against Italy's Linda Ferrando on the Centre Court.

Ferrando's fleeting moment of fame came on the same court in 1990, when she defeated Monica Seles in the third round. Yesterday, she led the No 2 seed 3-0 and created a set point at 5-4. Sanchez Vicario promptly disabused the Italian by passing her with a confident backhand down the line.

From then on the match followed a familiar pattern. Sanchez Vicario had won their three previous contests in straight sets and by 6-1 in the second set on each occasion.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 39