Tennis: Muster crushes ill-tempered Ivanisevic

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The Independent Online
Thomas Muster finally erased the embarrassing memory of his visit to the $1m Dubai Open last year by defeating Goran Ivanisevic, the top seed and defending champion, 7-5, 7-6, to win the title. It was all so different when a jet-lagged Muster arrived here as the world No 1 and was eliminated in the opening round by the Australian Sandon Stolle, a "lucky loser" from the qualifying.

Muster was too tired than after a long Davis Cup tie in South Africa to express much regret at surrendering the No 1 spot back to the United States, where Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi had been spiteful about the Austrian's preponderance of matches on slow clay courts. Muster was also tired last night, but from exhilarating tennis which had sustained him through Saturday's remarkable semi-final victory against Jim Courier and carried him through an early onslaught by the big-serving Ivanisevic.

The win over Courier ensured that Muster would overtake Ivanisevic to become world No 2 behind Sampras whoever won the final, such are the foibles of the ATP Tour's computer. This appeared to be the least of the Austrian's concerns as he set about denying his opponent a swift advantage. The Croat had five break points in the opening set. Muster survived them all and did not hesitate when Ivanisevic displayed ominous signs of frustration.

The Croat always tends to play better with a racket in his hand, but here - as so often been the case in the past, he virtually tossed away his chances by losing his temper - twice throwing the weapon and putting himself within one further offence of a disqualification.

Ivanisevic obviously had not learned the lessons of the tournament, let alone his entire career. He had been in similar disciplinary peril after abusing his racket during his second-round match against the Czech Republic's Bohdan Ulihrach, curbing himself before it was too late. Now he was tempting the patience of Gerry Armstrong, the British umpire who finally showed the door to John McEnroe at the 1990 Australian Open.

Warned for throwing his racket after missing a smash on a break point in the sixth game, Ivanisevic held himself in check until a double-fault and a missed overhead cost him the set on Muster's second break point in the 11th game. The Croat's racket again sailed towards the perimeter fence, and Armstrong unhesitatingly penalised him a point. Muster, already 15-love to the good when serving for the set held to love after 43 minutes.

The umpire had a busy night, not only making sure that there was decorum on the court but in helping to fix the electronic bleeper on the net cord, which came adrift on two occasions, which was hardly surprising considering the power behind the shots.

Ivanisevic, who was not blessed with the best of luck when the balls came into contact with the tape, seemed likely to level the match but again was denied by his tenacious opponent after creating a break-point opportunity at 4-3 and three set points at 5-4. At one stage Ivanisevic straddled the net as if hoping that it would slice him in half.

Muster saved a fourth set point in the 12th game and cracked Ivanisevic so swiftly in the tie-break that the Croat lay flat on his back with his tongue hanging out like an exhausted puppy. The Austrian won the shoot- out 7-3.

Martina Hingis beat Anke Huber 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 yesterday in the final of the Paris Open to take her fourth consecutive tournament in a row. Hingis has now won her last 18 matches, not counting her walk-over victory in the Tokyo final when Steffi Graf defaulted with a knee injury.